Michael Oher, a teenager placed into foster care at an early age, gets a chance to improve his life by gaining entry into an exclusive Christian school due to his size and athletic ability. Whilst there, he's noticed by Leigh Anne Tuohy, whose kids go to the same school. Leigh Anne recognises Michael's poor predicament and takes him in, giving him a place to stay, new clothes, and eventually begins to turn his life around by helping him improve his grades and training to become a world class American football player.
I'll admit, going into this movie, I was already biased. I'm an American football fan, and in particular a Baltimore Ravens fan, and thus I was already well aware of the Michael Oher story, and so I was more interested in seeing how it was depicted on screen, as well as interested in seeing how accurately they would tell the story. I wasn't at all disappointed, and to be completely honest, I was impressed at how much it stuck to the real story.
One question comes out of this film, though, more than any other - Where the hell did Sandra Bullock produce a performance like that from? We've spent years being subjected to films like 'The Lake House' and 'All About Steve' and then, all of a sudden, she pulls out a performance of such depth and emotion like this. It seems almost surreal watching Sandra Bullock deliver a truly great performance, but there you go, the Academy weren't wrong.
The story itself is a really great heartwarming tale of redemption and the film plays it out at exactly the right pace, never letting it get too gooey or schmaltzy, letting it tell itself without having to force it. The opening scene establishes the telling of the story in flashback form which seems a bit wrong, it seems as though they could have just let the film go from start to finish without putting it into a somewhat different context: Leaving the audience wondering why Michael Oher is being interviewed about his 'weird situation' and leading into it like that.
Quinton Aaron plays the role of Oher almost perfectly, moving from "Big Mike" to the world class offensive linesman he became during his time at Wingate Christian School and eventually the University of Mississippi. He doesn't go over the top playing on the emotion which is induced by most of the scenes (and be careful, apart from a few select comedy scenes starring Leigh Anne's youngest son SJ, it is a powerful, emotional film) but still manages to portray Michael Oher in an extremely accurate light. The casting of Tim McGraw as Sean Tuohy links this film directly to Friday Night Lights, the ultimate (so far) portrayal of American football on film, and it's clear to seen Lights' influence on the actual football scenes, in particular Oher's debut game where he faces the opposition's number 66 - It's arguably the film's most memorable scene, and it's a scene that involves American football, not emotional back story. I believe that goes to show just how engaging this film is on all levels.
Overall, this film is a great, uplifting story, but it was always going to be due to the source material it comes from. The main question was always going to be how well the writers and director, and they've done incredibly well translating this fascinating story onto film, and making it accessible to everyone, from football fan to drama fan. The performances are good, which is essential in carrying the film, and although the film is about Oher's story, Sandra Bullock's Leigh Anne Tuohy really steals the show and the limelight, though the question remains: Should Sandra Bullock have stolen the limelight away from Michael Oher's incredible story? Don't get me wrong, it works, but Oher's story should probably have been given the foreground, though that's not to take away from Tuohy's incredible act of kindness. You will, however, probably appreciate this film more if you either have prior knowledge of the Oher story or if you're an American football fan.