Incompetence is not the only hallmark of a horrible film, though United Passions is most certainly incompetent. Sometimes a film can represent something so ideologically reprehensible and be such a blatant disregard for actual historical events as to be offensive by its very existence. The FIFA-funded autobiography of the famed soccer organization was released to the most ironic timing, following in the wake of a corruption scandal that saw over a dozen FIFA officials arrested and the resignation of President Sepp Blatter. The irony sets in as one realizes that United Passions is a blatant propaganda piece that seeks to aggrandize the organization and its leaders while completely ignoring any faults the organization has ever had.
This comes to the expense of any sort of discernable plot, other than acting as a dramatized history lesson of the origin and rise to power of the soccer association. Three presidents are biographically portrayed: Jules Rimet (Gerard Depardieu), João Havelange (a disturbingly whitewashed miscast of Sam Neill), and Sepp Blatter (Tim Roth). The first half of the film focuses on the first half of the twentieth century when Rimet was in power, and is entirely devoid of conflict, as the organization is portrayed to effortlessly rise to popularity as cartoonishly racist British competitors sneer in the background. The latter half focuses on Havelange’s presidency and Blatter’s ascension of the ranks. This is also fairly bloodless, with the closest thing to a discernable arc coming in the form of Blatter overcoming allegations of corruption in the 1990s.
Were it not for such close timing, one could almost have thought this film was an investment in Blatter’s criminal embezzlement defense, treating the man as a saint while faceless underlings betray him and leave him holding the bag. The fact that the film acts as if FIFA is an organization that has overcome internal corruption and exploitative practices is laughable at best and downright despicable at worst. This is propaganda at its most obvious, so ineptly made as to not even be convincing.
As mentioned before, the film has no narrative throughline, meaning it is completely lacking in narrative or character investment. The big-name talent called in to staff this film all seem to regret the parts they play even as they are on screen, and the dialogue is so hokey and ham-fisted that it cannot be taken seriously; there are moments where extras spout expositionary dialogue as if it were taken from a cue card off screen and deliver the line just as convincingly. The film attempts to mask its stilted and obvious writing by overusing swelling orchestral accompaniments in the vain hope that, if the words spoken will not convince the audience of FIFA’s greatness, the emotional manipulation of music will. There are barely any scenes of soccer actually being played, so we are denied even that banal pleasure!
There is absolutely nothing redeeming about this movie. I’m racking my brain to think of something that I can find praiseworthy, and the only thing I can even remotely consider good is the historical set design. This is how you know your film is creatively bankrupt. This is as much a horrible piece of marketing as I’ve ever had the displeasure to see put to feature film format. It is a glossy-eyed portrait of a historically corrupt organization that neither works as an accurate factual representation nor as a piece of narrative fiction. It is easily one of the worst films ever made, and not even in a way that is funny. If you were curious, just walk away. There’s nothing worth seeing here.