As I write Shia LaBoeuf is, as a work of performance art, watching all his movies, back-to-back, in reverse chronological order. Which means that towards the end of this marathon feat of endurance through his sometimes terrible ouvere, he is rewarded with at least one good movie – The Greatest Game Ever Played.
Directed by the actor Bill Paxton, The Greatest Game Ever Played, is based on the true story of the of the 1913 US golf open. But it is a film that is about much more than an extra-ordinary game of golf. The film also deals directly with the class tensions of the early twentieth century and touches upon the profound anti-Catholic prejudices of both the British and American establishments. But at heart the film is about that perennial favourite of triumph against the odds.
The acting is exemplary throughout. Stephen Dillane is excellent as usual as the great British golfer Harry Vardane. Josh Flitter, as a ten year old caddy, steals every scene in which he appears. But the revelation of the movie is Shia LaBoeuf: After a career which to that point had been principally marked by his slap-stick performances in the children’s programme “Even Stevens”, and which subsequently has been marked with poor movie choices and increased eccentricity, LaBoeuf delivers a disciplined, dignified and highly sympathetic performance as a working class Franco-Irish kid fighting his way through the prejudices of the New England WASP establishment.
An old fashioned movie in the best sense of the word: fine acting, clear directing and a great story that grips to the end – the final scene an affectionate nod to Casablanca is just one of the many pleasures that fill a great movie.
Perhaps, as he watches this, Shia LaBoeuf may reflect on the considerable promise he showed as a younger actor, and reflect that it is never too late to be what you might have been.