Remember the Titans
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Based on a remarkable true story, "Remember the Titans" follows the explosive dramatic events that took place in Alexandria, Virginia in 1971 when African-American football coach Herman Boone (Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington) was hired to guide an integrated but racially polarized high school team, the T.C. Williams Titans. Angry, stubborn and a rigid task master, Boone faces a cool reception from the team's players as well as an awkward relationship with assistant coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton), a local white coach with seniority and a tradition of winning who was bypassed for the job. As the two men learn to overcome their ignorance and bigotry and realize that they have much in common and integrity, honor and a strong work ethic. They work together to transform a group of angry unfocused players into a dynamic winning team of responsible young men. In the process, they also unite a divided community and ensure that Virginia will always "Remember the Titans."
- Six additional scenes not seen in theaters
- Two exclusive featurettes - "Denzel Becomes Boone" and "Beating the Odds"
- ABC Special Remember the Titans: An Inspirational Journey Behind the Scenes Hosted by Lynn Swann
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Set in Virginia around 1971, the story primarily involves the football team at T.C. Williams High. The school is in the middle of a racial integration process and seems to find the concept, of blacks and whites in physical contact, objectionable. Thrown into this already volatile mix is Coach Boone, a black man from out of state and from a lower grade of football. Boone is placed above Coach Yoast, the current, and white, head of the football department. This strange form of affirmative action is seemingly aimed at political, rather than social, goals.
Not surprisingly Coach Yoast, solidly played by Will Patton, takes umbrage at this obvious slight to his tenure, experience and standing in the community. His young daughter, Sheryl, takes the news with even more disgust. Played by Hayden Panettiere, Sheryl steals every scene she's in, creating a funny and memorable character; a small curly haired girl who loves football more than life itself.
Seeing the danger of his team abandoning university scholarships just to show solidarity, Yoast steps back onto the team in a subordinate role to Boone. Densel Washington gives us another strong performance as the forceful, and borderline abusive, Coach Boone. His credo seems to emphasise offence, both on the field and off. This is made clear after he challenges the worst elements of the town to face him, following an incident involving bricks flung through his home's windows.
Boone's first act as head coach is to undo the racial divide among his players. Instead, the team is split along offensive and defensive lines. This forced integration soon causes conflict, allowing the audience to explore the large cast of characters in more depth. It is remarkable that so many minor characters stand out in memory and if some of them seem a little shallow, there are limits to what can be achieved in under two hours.
True reconciliation, perhaps even racial harmony, does not begin building until the team is lead on a crippling morning run that finishes at the Gettysburg battle ground. Boone, who set up the event, gives a shaming speech comparing the "cause" that their forefathers fought and died for, to the smaller battles still being fought within their team. In addition, each player was given an ongoing assignment to get to know each and every other member of the team, forcing some level of understanding in most of these young men.
There is a fair amount of football in the film but for me, it was the character expositions and interpersonal conflict that held my interest. I'm sure those who enjoy the game will get a lot more out of the film but the game does not overshadow the strong narrative, creative cinematography and moving soundtrack. In the end, the film's value rests on the shoulders of the two leading men rather than on football. These two honourable men may start out as adversaries but, like the team's offensive and defensive captains, they eventually become life-long friends.