Written by: Gregory Allen Howard
Starring: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Donald Faison, Nicole Ari Parker
Of the many many positives attributed to involvement in sports, the camaraderie built between the teammates remains one that makes leaving the environment so difficult. A sense of connection and love unmatched through other group activities, which Remember the Titans knows very well when following this group of boys as they build bonds in a tumultuous time. The power of these connections allows this film to have an everlasting legacy and one to continually appreciate.
With the integration of all students in a Fairfax, Virginia school, tensions rise amongst all community members. This begins with the adults and makes its way to the football players of the beloved high school football team, the Titans who must face real-world pressures and issues while having to put it all away and come together as a successful team.
A distinct cheesiness exists with stories like Remember the Titans where it presents a narrative where racism seemingly gets solved. This has begrudgingly been overdone but something remains special in the way it gets presented in this feature arising from this being a formative time in the lives of these boys. Living in a world where white boys are told to hate their Black counterparts simply because of the color of their skin exists not as something these boys naturally believe but rather as what they get taught. Nurture very much takes over the nature aspect of development and the positives this feature brings come from the enlightenment that comes from genuinely interacting with someone from the other aisle and how it can make all of the difference.
Lessons taught in this film on a racial and societal level get distilled through the scope of football seeing as sports serve as a utopia of meritocracy. Instead of judgment based on skin color, it all comes down to whether or not one has the passion and skill to outplay your fellow teammates and opponents. The purest equalizer creates fertile ground for bonds to occur and for these boys to see each other as people and not beings meant to be hated. The moments in the camp symbolize this all so well, particularly when it comes to the late jog they take encapsulating all of it in such a powerful scene.
With all of that said, the lines definitively get drawn on several occasions throughout the film and when football camp ends and these boys need to reenter the real world, everything becomes that much more difficult. Racism based on how one was raised from a young age then gets amplified into systemic and vile real-world prejudice pushing the resolve of these boys to stand strong with what they have learned from each other amidst horrific bile and injustice occurring.
As with any sports film, it comes with a set formula of things that will transpire building up to the big climactic game filled with plenty of stakes for all parties involved. Much of it comes part and parcel with other sports films partly because it works so well in heightening the emotions and making the final plays all that more critical. However, when mixing the tropes of the genre with the resonant story this feature has to share, it makes it all that much more impactful. This becomes increasingly true when considering this all comes based on true events. Every play, game, and interaction has meaning when it comes to this film with stakes and pressures coming from various angles making it an enriching film to experience.
Narratively sweeping and emotionally potent, much of the connection accruing with the characters comes from the players involved but the dynamic occurring with the adults, namely coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) and Bill Yoast (Will Patton) allows for two great actors to raise their games when the younger ones do not quite lift their weight. Unsurprisingly, Denzel excelled in the feature but even he impressed by how he managed to exude this confidence and vulnerability in the position he finds himself in. The stakes involved with his character, Coach Boone, come with its weight not just with his job performance but the racial barriers he must break to simply prove his worth as a human. Denzel owns every single moment where he needs to shine within the feature and undoubtedly proves to be the defining performer.
Having lost none of its power and charm, Remember the Titans seeks to be more than just a football story or even about race. Instead, it speaks about the connection that can be built through sports. Nothing matters more than one’s talent and determination to aid the team and this feature shines in demonstrating how this camaraderie can shatter preconceived notions in the most beautiful way. It provides several moments to make you cheer, laugh, and go along with this ride with these coaches and players culminating in something memorable, just as the title wants you to do.