“Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.” Could this movie be any more self-explanatory? I wasn’t expecting a “Longest Yard” or “Miracle” kind of movie, and this certainly wasn’t one. However, I enjoyed this documentary almost as much. It’s a look back at one of the most intense and gripping Ivy League football matchups. Filmmaker Kevin Rafferty highlights the nail-biting game in a play-by-play analytical style, broken up by interviews with players from both sides talking not only about their perspectives on the game itself, but Ivy life and some of the social and political themes that affected them during the ‘60s.
The cinematography was well put together, taking into consideration the material they had to work with: mostly grainy play clips and newly shot talking heads. There’s an intense excited curiosity one gets watching one team slaughter another, no matter if it happens on the court, rink or field. What’s even better for the audience is when that underdog team pulls up from behind and makes a surreal victory.
Yale was the clear favorite and stronger team on the field that day. With Harvard down throughout the entire game, the score was 29-19 with 42 seconds on the clock. Nicknamed “God” by his teammates, Yale quarterback Brian Dowling was watching his winning streak slip slowly from his grasp as Harvard’s offense closed up the score to 29-27 on a pass interference call. Within three seconds the game went from a runaway victory to a tie, which people to this day still refer to as a “Harvard victory.”
If you’re not an avid Monday Night Football fan, the first 15 or 20 minutes of this movie could be difficult to muscle through, but once you do, it’s surprising how many juicy facts there are to be had from a “football movie.” Tommy Lee Jones, famous for movies like “No Country for Old Men,” “Batman Forever,” and the “Men in Black” series, was a Harvard offensive guard in the game. Apparently Jones’ college roommate was former vice president Al Gore. Who knew?
“Wow” moment number two came after Yale player Ted Livingston revealed his college sweetie was Meryl Streep and his roommate was George W. Bush. My personal favorite, however, were the shots of the all-male cheerleading squads warming up and performing on the sidelines.
This movie was well executed. I was surprised the last 42 seconds of a game could be hyped into 25 minutes on the big screen. This is one sports movie you might actually find stimulating. It starts screening Mar. 13 at the Lumiere Theatre.