The Gods of bad films have blessed us this time!
So FIFA is kind of an awful organization, right? I feel like we can just simply look past all of the grandstanding and the popularity of football in the world and at least look with an honest eye at FIFA and say that they're one of the scummiest organizations in recent memories. From forcibly changing national laws, to mandating massive constructions for little profit, the corruption, the bribery, the corruption, and at just how greedy and reprehensible the executives are, in particular Sepp Blatter. During the last week of May, several FIFA executives were arrested for massive corruption and each executive is taking everyone down with him. Sepp Blatter resigned for unknown reasons and FIFA is trying to make a positive spin out of their entire organization going down in a brilliant ball of fire.
Enter, United Passions. United Passions is a biopic of the entire FIFA organization and goes over FIFA's 100+ year history with no irony and makes a genuine effort to show how noble and pure FIFA is. They are above corruption. They do everything for the children. They stand on the side of right and are all sympathetic people that have been bullied by the press. LEAVE FIFA ALONE!!! And yet, this movie released on June 5th, 2015, only 3 days after Sepp Blatter announced his resignation and every executive is trying to kill each other for a lighter sentence. And here is a movie about how pure FIFA is, funded and paid for by FIFA and all of FIFA's sponsors. So as you can tell, this is going to be a very biased and fair movie that will address FIFA's criticisms and shortcomings. Or it could outright say that a former FIFA president views himself as God, so give or take what you can get I suppose.
It's so rare that I ever get the chance to review something that's shameless propaganda, but here it is. Propaganda is a funny thing. It can be effective if disguised properly and is released during the right time period, but if it isn't, it sticks out like a sore thumb and is instantly criticized. United Passions had the unfortunate luck of be released after the lid was blown of FIFA, and it was ragged and critically slaughtered appropriately. It was called "cinematic excrement" by The Guardian, "tedious and amateurish" by the New York Post, and is sitting at a 1/100 on Metacritic, with the highest review saying, well, it was shit. It made less than $1,000 at the box office so far. Quite literally, only a few people have even seen this movie, yet I'm talking about it. Why? Because it's too easy of course.
I'm not going to pretend I know the slightest thing about football, or FIFA's long and "storied" history, so the best I can do is convey the plot and the movie as it is, removing all of the negativity of the FIFA organization and its current troubles. It's only fair to judge the movie on its own and not let the cartoonishly evil FIFA sully it. Still, taking the FIFA out of United Passions, the movie is awful. It has some of the most unnatural dialogue I've seen in years, it's racist, sexiest, promotes illegitimate behavior, and is trying so hard to make FIFA look like the heroes to the detriment of anyone else.
The movie doesn't necessarily follow a three act structure so instead, let me give you a highlight reel of some of my favorite moments from this movie. I feel safe in saying that because no one is going to see this movie EVER, that spoiling what essentially is history is pretty safe territory. Actually, scratch that, I'm not spoiling history, because obviously the world of United Passions is so stupid and corny that it has to take place in a fictional world where everything makes sense and isn't some of the dumbest things I've ever heard. Hence, spoiler warning.
Right then, let's first talk about the movie's favorite punching bags, the British. If you ever see a British man appear in this movie, they are clearly arrogant and are so wrong and evil that they have to be put in their place. A British man, at a FIFA party, complains about the World Cup being held in Uruguay, so he goes on a rant about why a world cup shouldn't be held in a third world country. He then starts to mock saying, and I quote, "the natives of Africa are stupid and undisciplined. It's just their nature. How could they possibly be expected to appreciate the subtleties of a game invented by the whites?... Haw! Negroes playing football! Why not women while we’re at it? Now that would be amusing. Haw! Quite amusing!”
I'll just let that quote speak for itself.
Then add on the fact that in the very beginning of the movie, an old British man in a suit, monocle and cane in tow, insults people coming up to him to ask if England would like to join FIFA by saying that they invented football and that they should be running FIFA and not anyone else. He proceeds to scoff as a stereotypical man in a top hot does and walks away.
We've already talked about how on FIFA president outright states he is God, so let's move on to a perplexing point in the movie. The 1950 World Cup apparently was a very interesting one, having the final between Brazil and Uruguay down to the wire. Uruguay won, beating the host nation Brazil 2-1, and was known as the biggest upset in FIFA history. In the movie, it's portrayed worse than WWII. No joke, WWII is given less time and less severity than seeing Uruguay win the World Cup. The music slows down, sad music plays, and everyone has a shocked and devastated look on their faces. People are even crying that Uruguay won and Jules Rimet, the head of FIFA at the time, begrudgingly gives over the trophy to Uruguay. Something that has a lot of national pride for Uruguay and is seen by an amazing comeback for them was painted over with a gloss of contempt and spite, making it seem pretty uncomfortable for any Uruguayan watching the movie I assume.
There's the constant Adidas and Coca-Cola ads throughout the movie, but the movie doesn't become ironical and, for lack of a better term, messianic, until Sepp Blatter enters the movie. As soon as he does, all of his actions are overwhelmingly good. He pays people's salaries. He always looks out for the children. He takes a firm stand against all corruption. He even fights for his chance to remaining FIFA president.
The best Sepp Blatter moment though comes during a press conference. After Sepp sits down to begin the press conference, he is asked several hard questions by the media... except they aren't hard questions. They're very fair and balanced questions that deserved proper answers. Sepp is asked about athlete safety, why video replays are not used to provide more accurate referee calls, and about a controversial call that cost a team the playoffs. All of these questions are fair and legitimate questions, but Sepp takes complete offense, storms out of the room with music swelling, and avoids the press like he is a victim of responsible journalism. Then the press has the GALL to approach him afterwards and question about corruption in FIFA, to which he drives off, not addressing their criticisms. Even if they're trying to make him a sympathetic figure, having him avoid the problem doesn't give him sympathy. If he addresses it and makes a stand, then I can relate to him. If not, he's running away. At least FIFA understood at least how to portray good old Sepp.
There's too much laughable content for me to fully address in this movie, but just assume all of the worst traits of a propaganda film and that's about it. It's shameless, tries its best to portray FIFA in a good light, but it fails to understand that it can't be all glowing praise and adoration. When the most serious moment in the movie is a team losing a football match, you've lost sight of being a biopic. But then again, it's FIFA. Did you expect any less from them?
Though I will say, and I know that this may sound ludicrous coming from me, but I think the press have been too hard on this movie. It's bad, but it's nothing I haven't seen before. This isn't pure shit in any way, shape, or form. If anything, I find this movie amusing, but pointless. No one has seen this movie, no one's opinion is going to be changed by United Passions, and I couldn't muster up any effort to hate this movie. United Passions is a victim of its own improper release and the fact that it is so clearly being orchestrated by FIFA to the point where the audience feels manipulated from the very first second. No shit this movie is manipulative, it's propaganda. I would care more if it was going towards kids, or was a massive success, or even incited hot political debate, but it hasn't. People just laughed and moved on. Not much else for me to do but do the same thing. I'll just laugh, move along, and forget this movie ever existed.