Review: ‘Rise’ Scores With NBA Superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Dramatic Origin Story

When it comes to inspiring sports movies, the true-life story “Rise” turns out to be a smash hit.

Hot on the heels of Netflix’s Adam Sandler dramedy “Hustle,” another effective if louder (and fictional) movie about the making of an underdog NBA star, “Rise” covers a lot of compelling physical and emotional territory. in less than two hours. This immersive image should leave all but the most jaded viewers with a smile on their face and a lump in their throat.

Solidly directed by Nigerian director Akin Omotoso (“Wow”), based on an excellent screenplay by Arash Amel (“Grace of Monaco,” “A Private War”), the film retells the extraordinary story of how the towering Giannis Antetokounmpo ( Uche Agada) went from being a young teenage basketball hopeful living in Greece with his close-knit family to landing a coveted spot with the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2013 NBA Draft. Although he would go on to become an NBA superstar, the The film cleverly ends with Giannis’s thrilling and hugely moving moment of triumph when, against all odds, he is drafted by the Bucks, the team he has played for ever since.

But the film is about much more. It compellingly follows how Giannis’s parents, Charles (Dayo Okeniyi) and Vera (Yetide Badaki), left Nigeria and, for security reasons, their first-born son, Francis, to emigrate to Greece, which they entered precariously through Istanbul. . The devoted and hard-working couple settled on the outskirts of Athens (where the film was mainly shot) and had four more children: Giannis, Thanasis (Ral Agada, Uche’s brother in real life), Kostas (Jaden Osimuwa) and Alexandros. (Elijah Sholanke). .

Thwarted at every turn to gain Greek citizenship, Charles and Vera continually struggled to provide for their family, though, as vividly recounted here, they stayed afloat through a combination of faith, perseverance, and grit. (Charles and Vera took a variety of low-paying jobs; the boys pitched in by becoming successful street vendors.) Charles’s mantra, “Friends come and go, but family is forever,” provides the thematic engine for the story and is fleshed out. here in so many poignant ways.

Enter basketball.

Early on, Thanasis demonstrated more innate hoop ability than the younger Giannis when the brothers began training and playing seriously with a local youth basketball club. (Money was so tight that the brothers had to share a pair of sneakers.) But Giannis persisted, honed his skills and eventually had to step in for his star brother when, during a key competitive game, Thanasis suffered an on-pitch injury. . The rest is sports and family history: Thanasis also signed with the Bucks, while Kostas would eventually join the Los Angeles Lakers. Alexandros currently plays for the Raptors 905, Toronto’s affiliate in the NBA G League. (It’s all presented here in an animated epilogue packed with well-chosen footage.)

Okeniyi and Badaki are great, they bring a lot of warmth, charisma and dignity to their anchor roles. The Agada brothers form a winning pair of screen siblings, steadfast in their characters’ commitment to each other and to their chosen sport. Efthimis Chalkidis brings a mischievous charm to his role as Haris, the rookie agent who, on a long shot, sets the ball in motion for Giannis’ entry into the NBA.

“Rise” bills itself as top-tier family cinema and a worthy reminder that some dreams can and do come true in a big way.


Classification: PG, for thematic elements and brief language

Execution time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Playing: Available June 24 on Disney+

Leave a Comment