28 November 2014 | bob the moo
That it is revisionist doesn't make it awful per se, but doing so in such a clumsy and obvious fashion, and with no narrative to distract, makes for a poor film
Like many others, if I am honest, I decided to watch this film not with the thought of "this might be good" but rather "this might be awful". I did try as much as I could to put it to one side, but with FIFA it is really hard to give them the benefit of the doubt, and indeed, with the accusations about the ethics report (clearing them totally of any wrong-doing regarding Qatar), it is difficult to come to the film just keen to meet it on an open field with no preconceptions. It was additionally hard to put the ethics report and the many other terrible things they do out of my mind, when the film kept reminding me that really it was just yet another in a long line of spin, defiance, arrogance, and being frankly up themselves.
It is technically well made; the crowd effects green-screen are the only obvious weak spot in the production values that are obvious, and otherwise it seems that at least those technical people have been able to make the film look and sound as it should. So if your own requirement is that the cinematography, sound, location management, and other such things are good, then this film will please you. Unfortunately this is not where most viewers will have their issues.
Much bile has been directed at the cast for taking part, but the real blame must be laid at the writer Deflino and the writer/ director Auburtin because fundamentally the film is a mess in terms of broad narrative and specific dialogue. Perhaps they had other forces at play with their drafts, but whatever happened the film is really something to behold. Starting with the plot, there is no central driving force to the film apart from simply the passage of time. The ending of the film is Blatter getting re-elected and the 2010 world cup going to South Africa; why? Why is this the end? Indeed what was the plot? It trudges through history with little drama, little interest, and really nothing to make you watch apart from how ham-fisted so much of it is. There is really no plot here – just a series of events that occur, few of them in any way interesting. But if it were only this, perhaps it would be okay – but it is not.
Looking at the film is regard to specific scenes or dialogue what we get is a film trying to brush away the perception of FIFA – even if it means making the film version of themselves be in stark contrast to the reality. It is clear whoever added such things knew the public accusations very well, and the film tackles them throughout – but does so in the most clumsy and obvious manner. The unrelated football match that we keep flashing to is the main thing – happy multi-cultural children playing the game for love, with a key focus on the female player. We also get Rimet quick to correct a man being racist and sexist, or Blatter tackling those within FIFA who appear to be corrupt. My personal favorite is the line said by Blatter "we should be concentrating on the women's game"; this made in rewind in disbelief that such a line would be written when really the most well-known position he has ever taken on that is that they should wear more feminine garb – particularly "tighter shorts for example". The film seems to have lots of this sort of revisionism when it comes to Blatter – even making a point of having a scene where he says hello to a cleaner by name.
There is lots of this clumsiness in revisionist history and point scoring; the British in particular are mocked for really no narrative reason. To be fair to the film, the role of sponsorship, money, and internal politics is covered, but it is not explored so much as just mentioned, and what really sticks in the mind is what isn't covered or what appears to be being spun. The cast get paid and go home – little else can be said. Depardieu and Roth are both good actors, so for them to stand in front of a camera and say words is not bother – as such they do functional jobs, but looking at their effort it is pretty clear that this was their version of Michael Caine's Jaws IV ("I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific"). Sam Neill is wonderfully bad in it – despite playing a Brazilian, he cannot get rid of his Peaky Blinders Northern Irish accent, and as result he has bits of that coming in all the time – along with loads of other accents that don't work either. Supporting cast is roundly so-so – nobody is terrible, it is just they have nothing to do, and even the best of them cannot sell this script.
United Passions is not as terrible as many viewers would have liked it to have been – but it is really poor nonetheless. There is really no narrative thread worth mentioning, but worse than this is the terrible attempts to rewrite even recent history, with scenes and lines of dialogue that have so clearly been dropped in for no other purpose than to pretend that the opposite is not true (which of course it is). The film's only actual purpose could be argued to be that it stands as testament to FIFA's self-indulgent arrogance – however even on that front there are so many other, better examples of this, that really even for that one does not need this dry wreck of a film.