National Champions

National Champions ★★★★

I very much enjoyed this dramatization about a star college football player boycotting the National Championship game to demand health care and more for all student athletes. It takes the topic of NIL (Players being allowed to get paid) and expands that in a natural way to cover even more ways that these kids should be taken care of. Stephan James is awesome and gives a couple of very moving speeches. J.K. Simmons, a perfectly cast coach with family problems, likewise provides a strong motivational speech that had me wanting to get up and run through a wall for him, even though I wasn't on his side!

The film feels like a Soderbergh movie. It's a slick, glossy, dramatic, and tense stage play (which makes sense because it’s an adaptation of one). There is no on the field action; it’s a character-driven drama, full of twisty turns because each person has their own motivations and secrets brought to the table. Kristin Chenoweth plays the coach's wife and is part of a subplot that is definitely the weakest, most out of place, part of the film and easily could have been cut, but there's not much else that I didn't like. Ric Roman Waugh has really impressed me lately and I feel like "National Champions" proves to me that he is due to produce a masterpiece sooner rather than later.

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