Mini-Review: Survive and Advance


This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Survive and Advance

So the ESPN 30 for 30 films are back at it in full force. Even those who turn a critical eye to ESPN look upon this series of documentaries as an example of what the self-proclaimed worldwide leader is still capable of when it sets its mind to it, and perhaps this film is now at the forefront of that conversation.

The set-up and structure is as simple as it is powerful, but in ways unexpected. Many, who have even a passing knowledge of sports, know of the improbable championship run of NC State in 1983 and later on the passionate, legendary speech by Jim Valvano at the ESPYs (Perhaps the last time they had true relevance) what the film does is take a step or two beyond those known moments. It starts with the funeral of Lorenzo Charles, the man who scored the now iconic dunk off a just-short Hail Mary three-point attempt. This is the impetus for the players to have reunions “If we don’t see each other once a year, we’ll only be coming to each other’s funerals.” says Whittenburg, and thus, they meet and form the frame of the tale. However, the film navigates through the pre-championship years and championship year runs with flash-forwards containing prophetic, funny and entertaining Valvano sound bites. It gives the title further poignance that is never too finely underlined.

After the championship things come closer to a point of convergence and carry more impact and the two meanings intertwine, again without being over-stressed. It’s a film ostensibly about a miraculous run, but it’s very clear from early on that the run will occur and the miracle truly becomes the off-the-court impact and what comes from it all, as sad a tale as it is.