Director: Benjamin Turner, Gabe Turner.
Starring: David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Phil Neville, Gary Neville.
Running Time: 98 minutes.
Synopsis: THE CLASS OF ’92, is a cinematic documentary detailing the rise to prominence and global sporting superstardom of six supremely talented young Manchester United footballers (David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Phil and Gary Neville). The film covers the period 1992-1999, culminating in Manchester United’s European Cup triumph, and dramatically interweaves and mirrors the highs and lows of its football odyssey with the immense social and cultural changes taking place in Britain at the time.
The recent run of big-screen feature documentaries have been impressive. In 2013 alone we’ve been treated to the delights of the Shane Meadows directed MADE OF STONE revolving around the history and the reforming of The Stone Roses, the harrowing and shocking killer whale feature BLACKFISH, and the athletics film 9.79*. All of those were extremely well received here on THN, all gaining four and five star reviews, but only receiving a very limited run in cinemas.
Joining that list this week is THE CLASS OF ’92, a film that will debut in cinemas across the country this Sunday, the 1st December (following a star-studded premiere in London’s Leicester Square), before moving to the home entertainment markets on Monday, 2nd December. The film revolves around six working-class kids from who ‘graduated’ from Manchester United’s Youth Academy in the early 1990s, and follows them all of the way through to their crowning glory as they achieved the treble in the summer of 1999, winning the domestic Premier League, the F.A. Cup and the Champions League time. The six kids; Nicky Butt, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and some little know sportsman by the name of David Beckham.
I will be honest and say that we weren’t going to review this title on these here pages, for two reasons really. The first was down simply to its limited run of just one day in UK cinemas, and the other being down to the fact that it was me that was going to have to review it, and I cannot stand Manchester United. I am an Arsenal supporter through and through, but I’m glad a series of events that occurred over the past couple of hours changed my mind.
THE CLASS OF ’92 is interesting, engrossing, heart-warming, funny, nostalgic, brilliantly shot, cleverly edited, well-presented and genuinely moving, and I will repeat. I hate Manchester United.
You see, THE CLASS OF ’92 manages to absolutely nail the most important thing that all of those aforementioned, very successful documentaries from earlier this year did, and that is the fact that you do absolutely do not need to have any remote interest in the subject matter before hand, let alone support the football team in which it features so heavily.
The film is littered with anecdotes from the six former players, a lot of them discussed over a glass of wine at the dinner table, others in the changing room at Old Trafford, and some straight to camera in the talking heads format we’ve come to get used to. You will see the boys talk about the crazy initiations they had to go through to graduate from one year to another at the youth academy (they once put Butt into a kit bag, zipped it up, locked it and put it on the team bus), the tricks they used to play on one another every week, and the times when Sir Alex Ferguson used to catch them before they were to embark on a night out on the town. You will hear Beckham describe how he used to walk the halls of the Theatre Of Dreams in the early days, the stench of Sir Matt Busby’s pipe in the air as he approached the manager’s office. You will see the boys joining the likes of Robbie Savage and fellow youth trainees having a kick-about in an open field. You will really see the talent they had, and in the case of some of them, particularly Ryan Giggs, very much still have at the highest level.
The film is as much to do with social change and the boom of Britain through the arts and the transition from the Thatcher to the Tony Blair years in the late 1990s as it is to do football. It clearly uses the regeneration of Manchester United Football Club as a metaphor for the change of Britain’s northern cities, and it grounds the idols featured as symbols of hope for a generation.
The interactions between the six Manchester United players and friends is a joy to watch, featruing interviews with the likes of Mani from the Roses, Tony Blair, Danny Boyle, Zinedene Zidane and Eric Cantona among many others, and with a soundtrack made up of the sounds of the day – think The Stone Roses, Oasis, Blur etc. – THE CLASS OF ’92 proves to be one of the surprises of the year.
It really is excellent – and that statement comes from someone who hates Manchester United.
THE CLASS OF ’92 plays in selected UK cinemas on Sunday 1st December, and is released on DVD in the UK on Monday 2nd December, 2013.
Watch the trailer below.