A Formulaic, But Inspiring Sports Doc

Jan 5, 2023

For a film that might initially come across as a glorified advertisement, with executive producers Dwayne Wade and LeBron James, in addition to the backing of NBA entertainment, Netflix’s “The Redeem Team” — about the 2008 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team — doesn’t have any business being as good as it actually is. An uplifting tale of the Team’s redemption in the wake of a humiliating 2004 loss in Athens, Jon Weinbach’s documentary is about everything you’d expect. Seasoned veterans (Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd) and up-and-coming stars (Wade, James, Chris Bosh, etc.) put aside their egos to create magic on the court, reclaiming the national spotlight in the process. 
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But, even if this documentary can be generously described as proficient, if not exactly revelatory, it somehow works. Optimistic, inspiring, and even a little bit melancholy (especially in relation to Bryant), Weinbach’s film joins the current surplus of basketball-related content that’s come out over the last few years — “Winning Time,” “The Last Dance,” “Swagger,” etc. — to bring renewed interest back to the sport. 
Beginning with that 2004 Bronze-medal run, which featured a number of stars playing a disjointed game for the infamously curmudgeonly coach Larry Brown, the doc quickly shifts its focus on the run-up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Now managed by former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo and coached by Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, the USA team attempts a rebuilding process. 
Instead of having players commit to a few weeks of practice, anyone who joined the USA team did so for the years leading up to the Olympics. Further, Coach K. brings a level of discipline (and understanding) that Brown never could. As they go out and recruit players, Colangelo and K. focus on those who create the best team, emphasizing that the reason the 2004 team fell apart was competing egos. 
We get the standard problems that come with any meeting of superstars. The team has to lose a few qualifying games before they bring in Kobe Bryant and get into a rhythm that channels their individual confidence into a team mentality. Once the film goes to Beijing, it settles into a structure, recounting each of the games quarter-by-quarter. 
If you remember the 2008 team, or have seen any other movie in this vein, you know exactly what is going to happen. It’s also a bit of a stretch to call the Redeem Team underdogs considering they had essentially every great NBA player on their team — save for Pau Gasol and Manu Ginóbili, who played for Spain and Argentina respectively and act as foils. 
But Weinbach wrings out enough suspense and narrows in on the ways that these greats interacted with each other, giving most of the time over to James, Wade, and Bryant. Their dynamic is fascinating to watch, especially considering that James was still a Cavalier (the 1st time), Wade was coming off an almost career-ending injury, and the two had yet to team up (or even win any championships). Meanwhile, Bryant was weathering a media storm that focused on his relationship with Shaq and his requests to be traded from the Lakers. 
If “The Last Dance” was entertaining for the petty grievances it exposed in Jordan, and his complete lack of interest in teamwork,  “The Redeem Team” is essentially the opposite, spreading the wealth, and focus, to show how basketball is a team sport, and that one (or multiple) superstars are not enough if they are working against each other. While it may be formulaic, it’s still an entertaining and insightful watch. [B]

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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