Starring: Pelé, Amarildo, José Macia
Director: Ben Nicholas, David Tryhorn
Running Time: 108 mins
Pelé is an American documentary about the life and career of one of the world’s greatest footballers, and an icon in his native Brazil through the years: Pelé.
Without doubt one of history’s most iconic sportsmen, Pelé’s story is worthy of the greatest of documentaries, and this film largely fits the bill. Though perhaps not on the spectacular level of Senna, the film tells its story with a great balance between on-pitch and off-pitch action and intrigue.
Above all, the biggest strength of this film has to be its intimacy and insight into the career and mindset of Pelé. A sportsman who found himself thrust onto the world stage by virtue of his talent and nothing more, the film brings into focus how his life and career changed so dramatically as he became the centre of attention across the globe.
But first, if you’re a football fan, it’s safe to say that you won’t be disappointed by this documentary. In comparison to a number of films looking at the lives of contemporary footballers (Ronaldo, Becoming Zlatan etc), Pelé is a much more football-heavy documentary.
So, you get to see exhilarating replays of iconic matches from Brazil’s greatest World Cup triumphs, as well as some of the national team’s lowest points. However, it’s the insight from Pelé himself as well as a number of his contemporaries that brings so much more resonance to the sporting action.
And alongside the on-pitch thrills, the film opens up the story to Pelé’s wider role in Brazilian society once he became the national team’s leader. At a tumultuous time in the country’s history, it’s fascinating to watch how Pelé’s incredible on-pitch skills brought hope to millions of people during some of their darkest days.
The film perhaps lacks an intense urgency that makes the similar likes of Senna so exhilarating to watch, arguably proving a little too over-reliant on interviews instead of allowing stock footage to tell the story of Pelé’s career in the most organic fashion.
Overall, I found Pelé a fascinating documentary, with a deep and emotionally resonant look at the life and career of one of football’s greatest icons. With a great blend of on-pitch and off-pitch storytelling, it’s a gripping watch, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.6.