Though marketed as formulaic nonsense about a high school football team that goes on to an improbable victory, Friday Night Lights is a stunner. It is a profoundly upsetting film in which football isn't just a game, or even a way of life, but a Texas town's only source of hope and validation. The screenplay ignores cliches, opting instead for poignant, subtle insight -- watch the way that the injured star runningback's uncle, trying to reassure the coach that his nephew would be back in action before long, uses "we" instead of "he," or how a character who in a lesser movie might just have been the stereotypical abusive father turns out to have motivations that are ambiguous and complex. Director Peter Berg shoots genuinely exciting football action, and the plot goes in directions few will expect. Here's a movie that's concerned about football, yes, but also about the people who play it and the people it affects. Friday Night Lights may make grown men cry.

Friday Night Lights

Director: Peter Berg

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Lucas Black