Film Review – “Rise” is an Incredibly Inspirational and Emotional Story of Family and Perseverance

The best sports movies tell a story that goes so far beyond just the world of sports. Whether it’s a team of high school kids overcoming racism to do something amazing or a group of young athletes inspiring a nation, sports movies can really reach outside of the idea of success inside the lines and get into some much bigger stories. Rise absolutely fits that mold. The new Disney+ original film tells the story of NBA superstar Giannas Antetokounmpo and how he fought through adversity to reach the peak of success in sports. However, it’s also a story about a family doing whatever they can to stick together and to find the best life they possibly can. Rise tells an incredibly emotional story of two parent trying to find the best life they can for their children by fleeing to another country. It’s incredibly well told and while basketball is the driving force of this movie, it is far from the primary factor. In fact, you may find yourself getting very invested in the movie before realizing you haven’t even seen a basketball for about 20 minutes, and be completely ok with that. The movie is also very well paced. So often with sports movies, the story will rush to get a ball in the hands of the main character and just get to the action of the sport in question. That is not the case with Rise, which takes time to establish the family and get the audience invested in their wellbeing. On the flip side, it never feels like it’s dragging or taking too long to get to the basketball. It is consistently entertaining and commands your attention throughout. One of the reasons you will become so invested in this family is the incredible performances of the cast, headed by Uche Agada. The young actor is very convincing as the aspiring athlete and delivers such a powerful performance that you can’t help but root for him. One scene in particular sees the character selling himself and explaining everything he’s been through and it is wonderfully powerful. Agada is supported terrifically by the rest of this cast as well. Ral Agada is fantastic as Giannis’ older brother Thanasis and his story is even better when you learn that he was only casted after the studio asked if Uche had a brother. Both actors make their debut with this film and they hit the scene in a big way. Yetide Badake and Dayo Okeniyi, who play Giannis’ mother and father respectively, also deliver very memorable performances. Giannis and Thanasis fight to do what they can to help their family by trying to be their best at basketball, but its the parents who really bring the heart to this movie. They’re the grounded, relatable characters that really let you become invested in the story and Badake and Okeniyi portray them perfectly. One of the biggest flaws in sports movies can often be the way the sport is actually shown. For some reason, basketball in particular has always seemed to be difficult to translate to the screen. It often looks very fake and you see a lot of things happen that would never happen in an actual game. That is not the case for Rise, which actually does the sport justice. It’s very satisfying for basketball fans. Another typical challenge of sports movies is that they are often based on a true story and thus lead to an ending we, as an audience, already know. It can be hard to build any suspense in that framework and that’s where the emotional component comes in. Knowing Giannis is a big NBA star right now, we know how this movie will turn out and yet we still find ourselves on the edge of our seats waiting for his name to be called at the NBA Draft. Overall, Rise is an absolute slam dunk. It hits all the notes you want a great sports movie to hit and it does so with great performances from a relatively lesser known cast. Giannis Antetokounmpo is already a huge name in the world of sports but the basketball star is about to have a whole lot of new fans after they see this movie. Rise is now streaming on Disney+.
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Mike Mack
Mack is the Editorial Director for Marvel and ESPN content and he has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed "nerd."