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Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama) stars as future Hall of Fame coach Don Haskins of tiny Texas Western University, who bucks convention by simply starting the best players he can find: history’s first all-African American lineup. In a turbulent time of social and political change, their unlikely success sends shock waves through the sport that follow the underdog Miners all the way to an epic showdown with all-white, #1 ranked Kentucky for the National Championship!
For more about Glory Road and the Glory Road Blu-ray release, see Glory Road Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 1, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Josh Lucas, Derek Luke, Jon Voight, Emily Deschanel, Evan Jones, Austin Nichols
Director: James Gartner
» See full cast & crew
Glory Road Blu-ray Review
Does this early Blu-ray release achieve format glory or mediocrity?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 1, 2011
I don't see color. I see quick, I see skill, and that's what you have, and that's what I'm putting on the court.
Sport has always been a staple of dramatic film, particularly films that take real-life sports drama and convert it into a fictional account of a true-life event. Sport and film have been and forever will be entwined, one providing the storyline, the other the means of recreating it in the shape of a structural, plot-driven entity, not simply as a series of images on a TV screen or a collection of clippings from a newspaper. And the beauty of it is that it matters not what sport from whence the story originates. Film and sport go so naturally hand-in-hand that anything from the world's most popular events and teams all the way down to the more obscure little sports are fit for the big screen, for somewhere, somehow, sometime, they generate a level of human interest and a truly magical combination of action and emotion, a confluence that yields a story that's bigger than one or the other alone. One such picture that merges sports action and human interest in cinematic narrative form is Glory Road, the story of the Texas Western College Miners, the first Division-1 university to field an integrated basketball team and, ultimately, start five black players in one game.
Don Haskins (Josh Lucas) is a small-time girl's basketball coach who knows the game and is dedicated to winning at any price. He's recruited to become the next head coach of the Texas Western College Miners, a perennial NCAA bottom-feeder hailing from hot and dusty El Paso. The school can't pay him much. He and his family will have to live in the dorms, but meals in the cafeteria come free of charge. It's not ideal, but it's coaching big time collegiate hoops, an offer too good for Haskins to pass up. Unfortunately, his prospects for improving the team are about zero. Nobody wants to play for a losing program, at least not the sort of people the school normally recruits. To win, Haskins must think outside the box and travel the country to find the best players nobody wants -- black players -- and convince them to come on down to racially-aware West Texas to play ball and earn an education along the way. Haskins succeeds at assembling a talented roster of mixed races. His strategy either confuses or enrages pretty much everyone at the school and throughout the entire NCAA landscape. But then the amazing happens. The Miners begin to win. And win. And win some more. Soon, they're the talk of college basketball and rising quickly through the ranks, but can the team remain strong and focused on the task at hand in a world that rejects them for their racial makeup?
Glory Road isn't the sort of movie people watch for a sense of mystery. There's no doubt as to how the movie will play out -- the black players will be rejected by the white players and the school, they'll gel and win ball games, they will collectively suffer through racial tensions on the road either for their skin color or for their associations with people of the "wrong" skin color, and they'll eventually come out of it all for the better and on top of the basketball world -- but these sorts of movies are made to be inspirational rather than mysterious, dramatic rather than original. It's the themes of perseverance, of the importance of looking past the superficial, of finding value in people others discard, about bucking the system, doing the right thing, and not just winning basketball games, but offering an education to players who would have otherwise had no hope and, through basketball, teaching them critical life skills that will see them through the hard times both during their hoops careers and later on in life. Glory Road does a marvelous job of telling the basics of the story in the gym while also providing deeper themes and accentuating the off-the-court action and drama that's the true key to the players' success and the film's success alike.
Director James Gartner's balancing act continues through every seam and fiber of the movie's being. The movie never wastes any time with trivial elements, whether in the painted picture of Haskins' basketball career and philosophy, the players' coming together through adversity and earned respect, or the action on the court. Even at just a hair under two hours, the movie is fast-paced, smartly-edited, and absent even a hint of superfluousness. Just a few minutes in and Haskins has been established, the family moved to West Texas, and the recruitment of black players underway. Even in the rapid-fire beginning, the movie feels complete, the characters wonderfully developed, and the plot off and running before the first few handfuls of popcorn have been consumed. The picture is also as playfully fun as it is dramatically intense; it's a very well-rounded movie from top to bottom, whether in terms of its technical prowess or the quality of its story. It also does a fine job of capturing the look and, more importantly, the tone of small-town West Texas and, indeed, the nation of the 1960s. The movie oozes atmosphere whether on campus, in the gym, on the town, or on the road. It handles the social awkwardness at home and outright hate on the road with equal care but equal authenticity. The movie cuts no corners, and it's all the better for it. Lastly, Josh Lucas is fantastic in the role of the legendary coach. Not only is the fire in his belly to win basketball games evident, but he stands tall through the story's most thematically difficult stretches and, just as important, he just looks, feels, and acts like a dedicated, knowledgable coach. It's one of the finer sports movie performances and Glory Road is one of the flat-out best Inspirational Sports films of the decade.
Glory Road Blu-ray, Video Quality
Glory Road features a decent 1080p Blu-ray transfer that looks nice at-a-glance but that is nevertheless held back by a few problem areas that become evident with a closer look. The image is nicely filmic, retaining a consistent and sometimes thick layer of grain, grain that does look clumpy from time to time. Blocking within backgrounds isn't uncommon, and color transitions sometimes want for smoothness. The image is very warm, capturing a slight golden tinge, which is reflected in like-colored flesh tones. Overall, however, the palette is fairly displayed, whether on the hardwood or out on the town. Black levels never go gray, but crush is a concern throughout. Fine detail, on the other hand, is superb. Facial and clothing textures are fair, but the image really proves its worth by capably displaying the finest little nuances on a scuffed wooden floor, the textures of the Miners' arena's wooden seats, or the wear and tear on the team's lockers. The image yields a fair sense of natural depth. The good generally outweighs the bad -- the detailing is really quite good -- but there's enough in the negative column to knock this one down out of the upper tiers of Blu-ray titles.
Glory Road Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Glory Road's PCM 5.1 uncompressed soundtrack is underpowered but basically proficient. Era-specific music sounds appropriately crunchy and absent the precise clarity of newer recordings. Score plays a little more quietly than one might expect, lingering more in the background, it would seem, than forcefully coming out front-and-center. The track does best during scenes that take place in the gym. The basketball buzzer, squeaky tennis shoes, the thump of a dribbling ball, and the cheering of the crowd all play so as to immerse the listener in the environment; it's all very natural and well spaced, with the surrounds carrying a nice bit of the load to help best recreate the atmosphere, whether during practice or at a game with either dozens, hundreds, or thousands of fans in attendance. Dialogue is steady and center-focused, save for when it, too, nicely echoes throughout the gym, whether naturally or with the help of a public address system. Still, the track seems a little hushed, not quite as loud as would be expected at reference levels. Overall, however, it's a fairly well balanced and clear experience that serves the movie well enough.
Glory Road Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Glory Road travels onto Blu-ray with a pair of commentaries and a featurette.
Glory Road Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Glory Road just gets it right. The movie oozes authenticity. It's very well made, smartly scripted, superbly acted, and finely edited. The basketball action is convincingly crafted, and the centerpiece dramatic elements are intense and purposeful. This is a very good, uplifting, socially important story that's been given a proper cinematic makeover. It's hard to get these sorts of movies wrong, but it's even more difficult to get them this right. Disney's Blu-ray release of Glory Road hails from the format's infancy, but it's still a serviceable disc. Good but problematic video, slightly shallow audio, and a few extras make this a decent, but not great, Blu-ray release. Still, the quality of the movie and the bargain pricing make this a worthy addition to any film library. Recommended.
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