Twitter Plot Summary: A retired Matt Busby reflects on the Munich air crash whilst managing a team of youngsters in an amateur competition.
In principal Believe has a good concept at its heart, the fictional tale of an elderly Matt Busby, he of Manchester United and the Busby Babes fame, coaching a team of delinquent youths in an amateur seven a side football tournament. This is interspersed with flashbacks to the 1957 airplane crash that he survived, but which killed most of his championship winning Manchester United squad. The effect intended of this is clear, that we’re placed on this world for a reason, that we survive challenges and dangerous situations because we have another purpose yet to be determined.
Rather than being the heartfelt movie that was clearly planned, instead it finds an uncomfortable balance between northern drama and sports movie. It even features a terribly cloying score that tells you exactly how you’re supposed to feel about the scenes of domestic drama (oh how sad, etc), and the remainder of the soundtrack uses pop songs from the era, used only to provide 80s context to the story – because Dead or Alive were big in the 80s. And Morrissey? The less said about him the better.
Toby Stephens is lumbered with a buffoon of a school headmaster with a pretentious name and an equally as pretentious moustache. When he is seen prancing around to The Liberty Bell, amongst other things also being the theme song to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the origins of his character soon become apparent. Whilst the character does remain a buffoon throughout, he has a change of heart in the final act that doesn’t fit in with his development up until that point.
Brian Cox is on his usual top form, and while it is clear precisely why he took the role, the presentation sadly leaves much to be desired. The moments of quiet reflection as he mourns the loss of his young squad are the moments that ring the most true, as is his passionate belief in the positive aspects of football. It’s sad in a way that there’s little mention made of the fan violence that affected the sport during this decade as the film could have had a stronger core principle. Much like England taking part in a penalty shootout, it’s a missed opportunity.
Its heart is in the right place, but Believe only works on the odd occasion rather than consistently. It would have been better for focusing more on Busby’s regrets and realisation that he can still serve a purpose rather than the football tournament the kids take part in. Tying in the story of Georgie, the boy whose petty criminal actions persuade Busby to come out of retirement, to Busby’s previous career would have also assisted greatly. It’s another missed opportunity as without something like this to add weight to the narrative it almost feels like Busby and the young squad are just muddling through – disappointingly the rest of the team barely get a mention, defined by being small, wearing a hat or being a girl. A few tweaks is all it needed, but it is ultimately a disappointment.