Every four years, the nations of the world band together, in a competition pitting the best of the Footballing world against each other, known as the World Cup. We have all come to expect this global celebration as if it has always been. But this international experiment only came about in the last century, it is hard to imagine a time before it became commonplace. What of those who strove to bring this vision to life? In 2014, the very lives of those who created those games were dramatized in the lows and highs of the international organisation that governs the sport of Football, in United Passions.
In 1904, a band of international football associations decide to unite, they are small, and do not even have the English football association in their ranks, though they more than compensate for it in their determination. We then follow the century-long drama of this association’s existence, from its struggles to relevancy to its struggles with finances. Along with the founding of the World Cup, the devastation of two world wars and its growth in popularity and influence. But the dark spectre of corruption may rear its head and bring down the organisation and the sport itself.
United Passions covers a century of sporting drama in its almost two-hour runtime, despite the lofty amount of film, the pacing is quick. What feels like decades of minutia almost glossed over in the first half, Passions focuses on the major highlights though, making these sacrifices justified for the bigger picture. These are all intercut with a contemporary match in an undisclosed location with a demographically diverse set of children playing a match, in a visual representation of both the struggles and success of the institution. It is an intriguing metaphor, but it is effective.
This F.I.F.A. biopic certainly boasts some experienced names to bring its history to life. Some choices are intriguing while others go beyond expectations. Fisher Stevens is almost unrecognisable as Carl Hirschmann, but the predominant focus appears to be on Jules Rimet, played by Gérard Depardieu. With a lot of the early parts of the film spent following his character, he makes for a good guide. Countered with the reign of Havelange, as a charismatic charmer who brought more of a commercial aspect to the sport, Sam Neill feels like a good fit in the role. We finally come across the tenure of Sepp Blatter, played by the chameleonically accented Tim Roth. Positioned here coming face to face with the organisations growing corruption, little do they know what would happen months after the film’s release.
Maybe a product of bad timing, with the brand trying to survive publicly after going through some enhanced scrutiny and reform over corruption scandals. Despite all that United Passions does shine an illuminating light on the drama and intrigue that happens outside the pitch. Talent revitalises the lives of the dreamers who strived to bring their utopic vision to life and managing to deliver a world-spanning tournament every four years. United Passions certainly lives up to its name, watching the world evolve around football, its global celebration evolving before the eye.
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