MOVIE REVIEW: True soccer story kicks plenty of goals
Director: Marcus H. Rosenmuller
Starring: David Kross, Feya Mavor, John Henshaw
Running time: 120 minutes
Verdict: Solid performances, incredible story
After a couple of hours watching the new documentary about soccer superstar Diego Maradona, this biopic about German goalie Bert Trautmann feels a little bit staid.
But The Keeper's tone and pacing are probably appropriate for the era - and culture - in which it is set.
And the story of a single-minded prisoner-of-war who overcame extreme public hostility to play for Manchester City after World War II is just as extraordinary, in its own right, as that of the troubled Argentinian striker.
Trautmann (David Kross), a German paratrooper, is transferred to a POW camp in Lancashire in 1944, after being captured in the forests near Kleve.
There he is spotted by the local storekeeper, Jack Friar (John Henshaw), who also happens to manage the ailing St Helen's Town soccer team.
With the help of some fat Cuban cigars, the working-class wheeler-dealer secures Trautmann's services for the rest of the season.
As St Helen's Town starts to make its way up the championship ladder, Manchester City manager Jock Thomson (Gary Lewis) makes a surprise visit to check out the skills of their new star player.
After the game, Trautmann is offered a spot on the team (replacing retiring goalie Frank Swift).
Director Marcus H. Rosenmuller doesn't delve too deeply into Trautmann's family history or his experiences during the war - apart from an incident that haunts him long after peace has been declared.
But Friar's feisty daughter Margaret (Feya Mavor) is one of the major reasons why he decides not to return home to Bremen when the other POWs are being repatriated.
While they were presumably anticipating some sort of pushback, both Trautmann and Thomson are surprised by the intensity of the anger and resentment that is directed towards the new Manchester City recruit by fans and the media.
On the field, the boos are deafening every time he picks up the ball.
But Trautmann is mentally tough. And so is his missus.
With the help of a fair-minded rabbi, the player is eventually accepted by British football fans.
Trautmann cements his legendary status when he refuses to leave the field after a bone-crunching collision with a Birmingham City player, making a number of game-clinching saves during those final 20 minutes.
Doctors later discover that he was playing with a broken neck.
While Trautmann is recuperating, his son is killed in a tragic accident and the distraught father blames himself.
Margaret jolts him out of his self-pity with an emotionally intelligent, heartfelt and extremely powerful speech about grief.
Rosenmuller's respect for his characters is obvious, which might well explain why he has chosen to tell their story fairly straight.
He is supported by three strong lead performances.
The film's period backdrop is also well-crafted; the sets are nicely textured without feeling like museum pieces.
Sometimes, it's smart to play by the rules.
The Keeper opens on Thursday.