It’s awards season, and a few movies may slip through the cracks if one is not paying attention. Director Ric Roman Waugh’s (Greenland, Shot Caller) National Champions tackles the student-athlete compensation controversy in an arresting fashion, and this was our top recommendation on our recent Find Your Film podcast.
The narrative centers on LeMarcus James (Stephan James), a star quarterback who boycotts the college football national championship game with his teammate and good friend Emmett Sunday (Alexander Ludwig).
With billions of dollars at stake, it would behoove James to not stage a protest and attempt to get his teammates to follow his lead. That said, who would this really benefit, and isn’t it a no-brainer that student-athletes should be compensated? The Grade-A ensemble cast (Tim Blake Nelson, Jeffrey Donovan, Kristen Chenoweth, Timothy Olyphant) deliver locked in performances.
J.K. Simmons also is believable as the LeMarcus’ coach, a man who believes he has his players’ best interests at heart. Uzo Aduba nearly steals the film as the power broker who tries to get LeMarcus and Emmett on board to play the game; she delivers the feature’s standout monologue with aplomb.
If you’re expecting a sports driven feature filled with passes, tackles and touchdowns, then National Champions may not be your bag. Penned by Adam Mervis, the story tackles an important subject sans heavy handed preachiness. Waugh shows both sides of the issue, and though the movie understandably favors the side of the athlete, the film is a refreshingly well rounded narrative.
Check out our full review of National Champions below, as co-host Eric Holmes gives the National Champions a perfect ***** stars.