Friday Night Lights is possibly the perfect football movie. And NO, I did rate rate this film highly because I was an extra in the scenes against Dallas Carter. It appears that even using freeze-frame on the DVD, it will be highly unlikely that I will be seen at all.

Peter Berg scores another directorial hit with his portrayal of Texas high school football in the 80’s. Berg’s choice of shots exists not for the sake of diversity itself, but to move to story forward with the appropriate emotion. Some of the shots evoke as much feeling as the acting itself.

FNL is not the bubble-gum portrayed in Varsity Blues and it is not the sugar-coated message-driven world of Remember the Titans. It is a dusty, reality-driven look at the characters in the biggest life drama of a depressed oil bust town. It doesn’t go overboard and portray the events as life-and-death. It does however, show the incredible life lessons taught in football and the gravity of decisions when amplified by this stage and those lights.

Billy Bob Thornton was brilliant as coach Gaines, primarily because he just played the role. The film did not require Thornton to carry the film. He is just another character in what is a true ensemble piece. You can lose track of him as a star and simply understand him as coach Gaines – and that is good acting. He was reunited with Lucas Black from Sling Blade who is apparently all grown up. His acting skills although great as the young boy in Sling Blade, have also grown up. As quarterback for the Permian Panthers, Black scores. Tim McGraw, who I tend to think of as a poster boy for the “new country music,” gives a surprisingly good performance as the heavy-drinking, hard-assed, former state champion, father of Garrett Hedlund’s Don Billingsley character. (Incidentally, another great performance.) Derek Luke delivered powerfully (albeit too strong at times) as star running back, Boobie Miles.

It appeared that the character of Brian Chavez (played by Jay Hernandez) was either never fully developed in the script of was left on the cutting room floor as he was nowhere to be seen early in the film and he just sorta popped in more and more toward the middle until the end where the scenes seemed to imply that he had been a bigger part of the team and the other boy’s lives that we were shown.

This one is “buy the DVD” worthy.

RATING 10 out of 10