Predictable movies, that with an inevitably uplifting ending and familiar character progressions, can still be good. The Greatest Game Ever Played is one of those films. The premise, that of an underdog underprivileged young man going up against the greatest golfers in the world, has been done. Like many of said stories, this one is based upon actual events. Unlike many similarly themed films, however, it strikes a resonance beyond the mere fact it's based on a true story, with a really effective execution.
The acting is very strong all around, with Shia LaBeouf fitting his role perfectly. He captures resilience, charm, and bottled frustration as well as anyone, and felt very in tune with what the role called for. I liked the interactions he had with the rest of the cast, with Stephen Dillane being especially impressive. Dillane's deadpan intensity gave the film a dramatic weight that it wouldn't have had otherwise. All of the inner-character dynamics felt authentic and well realized.
From a script standpoint, the film did an excellent job exploring the different character arcs. It was heavy handed, to be sure, in its main theme critiquing the aristocracy, but this was outweighed by the effective and inventive use of flashbacks. What was especially well done were the parallels between Dillane's early character and LaBeouf, with the film appropriately restraining itself from being too obvious.
The film also struck a good balance from a tone standpoint. It worked as a pure drama and an underdog story, while also having a noticeable charm and humor to it.
A fun, refreshingly positive, and always entertaining sports conventions fest.