Next Goal Wins Review

Monday 4 December 2023

Plot: The story of the infamously terrible American Samoa soccer team, known for a brutal 2001 FIFA match they lost 31-0.

Film: Next Goal Wins

Director: Taika Waititi

Writers: Taika Waititi, Iain Morris 

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Oscar Knightley, Kaimana

"Next Goal Wins" is a heartwarming underdog sports team comedy directed by Taika Waititi, offering a take on the true story of the American Samoa soccer team's journey from being labeled the world's worst team following a 31-0 loss to Australia in the World Cup qualifiers, to striving for redemption with the aid of infamous Soccer legend Thomas Rongen, played by Michael Fassbender.

Thomas can’t keep down a job due to his temper and has been left no choice in being sent to American Samoa to help turn the team around in time for the next World Cup qualifiers. The team, a band of misfits made up of pillars of the island community, have plenty of spirit but lack the discipline they need to win a game or even score a goal, which is all they want to do.

The film blends humor and genuine moments, showcasing the team's struggles and camaraderie particularly in regards to teammate Jaiyah, played by Kaimana, who is the first non-binary person to play in a men’s World Cup qualifier, but who will soon be reaching the point in their hormone journey where they wouldn’t qualify for the men’s team. Jaiyah is truly the heart of the film, their passion for the sport reminds coach Thomas of his own daughter Nicole, and this is ultimately what inspires him to really try. 

Taika Waititi’s unique brand of humour is very much present throughout this film and in all of the characters, and I acknowledge it won’t be for everyone but as a big fan of What We Do In The Shadows and Jojo Rabbit in particular, I enjoy the silly one liners and ridiculous monologues Taika favours.

This is a down-to-earth production filled with laughs and touching moments, including the team's growth and challenges both on and off the field. While centered around football, the film also delves into personal stories, addressing identity and acceptance in a very natural way. Despite not being a usual fan of sports-based movies, this was a pleasant experience and while I wouldn’t be in a rush to watch this one again, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an enjoyable cinematic experience when the film releases this Christmas.

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