The newest Disney+ film, Safety, is a stark reminder about the importance of family combined with what it means to play college football.
There is nothing better than a sports film that tugs at your emotions. I know it may be a cliché but it’s true. Disney knows how to make a sports film. They did it twenty years ago with Remember the Titans and they did it again this year. This film was always going to be a Disney+ original but it would be just as moving on the big screen as it is on the small screen.
Behind the camera, producer Mark Ciardi knows a thing or two about sports movies. The veteran producer has delivered several of them for Disney, including Miracle. Spending a decade in development, not much movement would happen until Disney began looking for potential Disney+ projects. No director was attached at this point in the process.
The film tells the true story of former Clemson University football safety Ray McElrathbey (Jay Reeves). He’s simply trying to be the best player that he can be on the field. At the time the film took place, his mother was a drug addict. She’s sober right now but it also meant that Ray Ray, as he was nicknamed, also has to take care of his younger brother Fahmarr (Thaddeus J. Mixson). But in secretly bringing Fay to his apartment, it requires getting roommate Daniel (Hunter Sansone) on board.
Kaycee later writes an article in the Clemson student paper and it changes everything. People within the Clemson community do what they can to help Ray and his brother. At the same time, this could also mean earning the school some NCAA infractions. If you’re heading up an athletic department or even a football team, infractions are the last thing you want for the program! There’s a fine line between what is and isn’t allowed. If it means fighting the system, so be it.
Being a freshman player on scholarship in 2006 is one thing but Ray Ray decides to tackle a full course load of sixteen units. This is a lot to handle but things are about to change. Ray Ray’s mom gets arrested back in Atlanta. This means there is a big decision to make. Does he let his younger brother get lost in the foster care system or will he decide to take care of him? Rules be darned but family is important. Even if it starts to affect his performance on the field, he believes it is the right thing to do. Meanwhile, Ray Ray also hits it off with Kaycee, a sports journalism major.
This is a sports film but in much as it has to do with the action on the field, the emotional drama surrounding Ray Ray drives the film forward. Sure, it is also football film in the sense that Ray Ray is a safety on Clemson’s team. What is equally important is that the filmmakers focus on the human character of it all. Real people have a story to tell and this is exactly what happens here. Suffice it to say, this is Ray’s story and it’s worth telling.
Clemson lends a hand in helping tell Ray Ray’s on-screen story. The filmmakers had one chance to shoot for a number of minutes during halftime. It may not be enough time that they would like but it gives the film some authenticity rather than film in another stadium.
I also love how Disney changes up the opening logo theme to tie into the football theme. In this instance, they add on a marching band. It’s always fun to see how studios change it up for sports films.
Safety is a reminder that not only are sports important to athletes but so are their family members.
DIRECTOR: Reginald Hudlin
SCREENWRITER: Nick Santora
CAST: Jay Reeves, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Corinne Foxx, Matthew Glave, Hunter Sansone, Amanda Warren, Miles Burris, Isaac Bell, Elijah Bell, and James Badge Dale