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Boaz Yakin's Remember the Titans holds only one major star (Denzel Washington), however there is an appealing cast of fresh unknowns and a winning emphasis on substance over self-indulgent style. Set in Alexandria, Virginia in 1971, the fact-based story begins with the integration of black and white students at T C Williams High School. The effort to improve race relations is most keenly felt on the school's football team, the Titans, and bigoted tempers flare when a black head coach (Washington) is appointed and his victorious predecessor (Will Patton) reluctantly stays on as his assistant. It's affirmative action at its most potentially volatile, complicated by the mandate that the coach will be fired if he loses a single game in the Titans' 13-game season. The players represent a hotbed of racial tension, but as the team struggles toward unity and gridiron glory, Remember the Titans builds on several subplots and character dynamics to become an inspirational drama of Rocky-like proportions.
Yakin--whose debut Fresh was one of the best independent films of the 1990s--understands the value of connecting small scenes to form a rich climactic payoff. Likewise, Washington provides a solid dramatic foundation (his coach is obsessively harsh, but for all the right reasons) while giving his younger costars ample time in the spotlight. The result is a film that achieves what it celebrates: an enriching sense of unity that's unquestionably genuine.--Jeff Shannon , Amazon.com
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