Coach Carter, directed by the great and powerful Thomas Carter, is a sports biopic focused on the real life triumphs of basketball coach Ken Carter (played by Samuel L Jackson). Carter, the owner of a sports good store, accepts the job of basketball coach for this old high school where he was a champion athlete. The school’s basketball team is struggling, primarily due to the lackluster attitudes of the players. Carter hopes to change this by instilling strict discipline into the team.
This is by far the best performance of Samuel L Jackson that I’ve witnessed. Typically, this legendary actor is known for role-playing witty and short-tempered characters who aren’t always the centre of attention in every scene. This is the exact opposite case in Coach Carter. Jackson executes the role of a demanding yet caring basketball coach who dishes out strict discipline to his players, all while teaching them lessons about responsibility, ambition and sportsmanship. Coach Ken Carter undoubtedly grabbed the attention of viewers in every scene he was a part of.
It is challenging to place this movie in one particular genre. Yes, it is a sports film that encapsulates the beauty, competition and skillmanship involved in basketball but it is also a biopic about an individual who moulded the minds of his students for the better. Teachers play a massive influence in all our lives, and Ken Carter was no exception. Throughout the film, Carter brought a new perspective on what it means to be a “student-athlete” to his players. He emphasized academics as much as basketball, as he believed college to be the best pathway to fight off impoverishment. He went to great lengths to enforce this belief, such as at one point shutting down the basketball gym indefinitely so that his players could improve their grades and apply for sport scholarships.
This was the mindset of Ken Carter. It was displayed very eloquently throughout the film. Aside from Samuel L Jacksons’ performance, I was also very impressed with the performances of the actors who played the high school basketball players. There were a few familiar faces (like Channing Tatum), but most of them were unknowns to me. These castings worked because I didn’t associate the actors with any other roles they may have played, which made them seem like genuine student athletes rather than actors mimicking student athletes. The basketball games themselves were also plentiful in number and generally well shot. These scenes had that intensity and adrenaline rush that one would expect if they were a witness to college basketball / NBA game.
A final point: Coach Carter also shines a sad but true light on the state of the American public school system in certain impoverished areas. It vividly displays how students (especially those from minority backgrounds) are (or certainly can be) at a disadvantage due to the circumstances in which they were raised. I analogize this to these students involuntarily partaking in a tightrope walking act, where the student(s) are forced to balance a pole constituting their academic performance with their livelihood, all while attempting to avoid falling into a net of poverty, drugs, violence and depression.
In summary, Coach Carter is one of those special films that I will be thinking about from time to time. It was extremely well made in all aspects – acting, choreography, pacing, narrative etc.