When it comes to inspirational sports movies, the true story Rise really hits the spot.
Hot on the heels of Netflix Adam Sandler’s dramedy Hustle, another effective, if noisy (and fictional) film about the making of an underdog NBA star, Rise covers a lot of compelling physical and emotional territory in under two hours away. This stirring image should leave all but the most jaded of viewers with a smile on their face and a lump in their throat.
Solidly directed by Nigerian-born Akin Omotoso (“Vaya”), based on a fine screenplay by Arash Amel (“Grace of Monaco”, “A Private War”), the film tells the remarkable story as the dominating Giannis Antetokounmpo (Uche Agada ) went from a poor basketball hopeful living in Greece with his close-knit family to a coveted spot with the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2013 NBA draft. Though he would go on to become an NBA superstar, the Film cleverly with Giannis’ stirring – and hugely touching – moment of triumph as he is selected against the odds by the Bucks, the team he has played for ever since.
But the film is about so much more. It captivatingly follows how Giannis’ parents, Charles (Dayo Okeniyi) and Vera (Yetide Badaki), left Nigeria – and for security reasons their firstborn son Francis – to emigrate to Greece, which they entered via Istanbul in uncertain circumstances. The devoted, hard-working couple settled outside of Athens (where the film was primarily shot) and went on to have four more sons: Giannis, Thanasis (Ral Agada, Uche’s real-life brother), Kostas (Jaden Osimuwa) and Alexandros (Elijah Sholanke). .
Blocked at every turn from obtaining Greek citizenship, Charles and Vera constantly struggled to provide for their family, although, as vividly told here, they kept their heads above water through a combination of faith, perseverance, and courage . (Charles and Vera took on various low-paying jobs; the boys helped out by becoming successful street vendors.) Charles’ mantra “Friends come and go, but family is forever” provides the thematic engine of the story, and it plays out from here in many moving ways.
Initially, Thanasis displayed more innate basketball ability than the younger Giannis as the brothers began training and playing in earnest with a local youth basketball club. (Money was so tight that the brothers had to share a pair of trainers.) But Giannis persevered, honing his skills and eventually having to fill in for his more brilliant brother when Thanasis injured himself on the pitch during a key competitive game. The rest is sports and family history: Thanasis also signed with the Bucks, while Kostas eventually moved to the Los Angeles Lakers. Alexandros currently plays for Raptors 905, Toronto’s affiliate in the NBA G League. (It’s all laid out here in a vivid epilogue, with carefully curated archive footage.)
Okeniyi and Badaki are great and bring a lot of warmth, charisma and dignity to their anchor roles. The Agada brothers are a successful screen sibling couple who remain unwavering in their characters’ commitment to one another and to their chosen sport. Efthimis Chalkidis brings puckish charm to his role as Haris, the new agent whose long shot sets the ball in motion for Gianni’s NBA entry.
“Rise” scores as a first-class family film and a worthy reminder that some dreams can and do come true – big.
Valuation: PG, for thematic elements and short speech
Duration: 1 hour 53 minutes
To play: Available June 24th on Disney+
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-06-24/review-rise-drama-nba-giannis-antetokounmpo-basketball ‘Rise’ review: Inspiring journey of NBA’s Giannis Antetokounmpo