'Pele: Birth Of A Legend' - Movie Review

Updated: 16 May, 2016 13:33 IST | Johnson Thomas |

Jeff and Mike Zimbalist's biopic recounts the soccer superstar Pele's rise from poverty to scoring the winning goal in Brazil's first World Cup victory in 1958

'Pele : Birth Of A Legend'
U; Biopic/Sports/Drama
Cast: Kevin de Paula, Leonardo Lima Carvalho, Seu Jorge, Vincent D'Onofrio, Colm Meaney, Rodrigo Santino, Mariana Nunes, Diego Boneta
Directors: Jeff and Mike Zimbalist

A still from the film. Pic/YouTube

Jeff and Mike Zimbalist's biopic recounts the soccer superstar's rise from poverty to scoring the winning goal in Brazil's first World Cup victory in 1958. With such a truncated life view and less than intense football action, the film fails to enthuse and enrapture as much as Pele did on the football field ever since he made his stunning entry into the world arena. And the difference is even more telling when in a moment of cinematic conceit, the world's greatest-ever soccer player, the man himself, shows up in a brief cameo - the young actor playing Pele’s younger self is shown as nearly careening into him in a hotel lobby and Pele turns to the camera, mouths a line and smiles broadly into the camera. It’s a delightful capture that belittles the make-believe that came before it.While going through the rudimentary mechanics of dutifully representing a life through a cinema lens, the film fails to muster enough spark or energy to light up the experience or to render it as extraordinary as the legend himself.

The story begins with 9-year-old Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Leonardo Lima Carvalho) also known as Dico, joyfully playing the game in bare feet with his friends in the streets of his village. Brazil, ever a football loving nation, is shown as obsessively following the highs and lows of the game during the 1950 world cup. And its loss at the World Cup final, leaves the entire village heart-broken. Dico, in an effort to lift his father's (a former football player) spirits promises that someday he'll win the World Cup for Brazil.

Cut to a now 15-year-old boy, mockingly called Pele, who manages to team up with his friends and make a powerful impression with his virtuosic playing – enough to be recruited to the Santos club which acts as the springboard to his selection into the national team. But his unorthodox, fluid playing style "Ginga" is frowned upon by his coach and he is forced to adopt the European method which renders his skills useless in the scheme of play. The conflicts lead to hard decisions and eventually there’s a turnaround which allows Pele to show off his magical skills to resounding and victorious effect. The directors/screenwriters familiar with the milieu, ratchet up a strictly by-the-numbers reproduction with some fluid football moments. Unfortunately the thrill is sorely missing. And India’s ace music composer, AR Rahman, entrusted with the background score, isn’t able to complement the scenario or lift the engagement with an effective score. The poor acting, traditionalist treatment and regulated melodrama also fails to raise the bar in terms of overall affect. Only Mathew (Black Swan) Libatique’s cinematography is worthy of high praise here!

Watch the trailer of 'Pele: Birth Of A Legend'

First Published: 13 May, 2016 14:01 IST

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