The Phantom of the Open left me feeling invigorated and rejuvenated, and it’s on par with some of the best films of the genre.

Film Review: The Phantom of the Open

Film Reviews

The Phantom of the Open
Director: Craig Roberts

Water & Power and Baby Cow Films
In Theaters 06.24

I’ve never been a sports fan, but I do occasionally enjoy a good sports movie. The biggest reason I don’t care for sports is that, since childhood, I’ve always hated the idea that in order to have winners, we must also have losers. This fact makes The Phantom of the Open feel tailor made for me.

The Phantom of the Open is based on the true story of Maurice Flitcroft (Mark Rylance). A devoted family man, Maurice works as a crane operator in Barrow-in-Furness, a port town in Cumbria, England. When all three of his sons reach an age where they can take care of themselves and pursue their own dreams, Maurice realizes that it’s time to find his own dream. Upon learning that the winner of The British Open Golf Championship receives £10,000, he sets out to compete, undeterred by the fact that he’s never played a round of golf in his life. Through a mixture of tenacity, misunderstanding and misrepresentation, Maurice qualifies for the 1976 Open, where he makes fans and enemies by famously shooting the single worst round in the history of the tournament. The experience gives him a taste for the sport, and Maurice refuses to let his lack of ability or credentials deter him from pursuing professional, competitive golfing.

Welsh actor Craig Roberts (Submarine) makes his directorial debut with this whimsical, formulaic, feel-good movie, but there’s never any doubt that the driving force behind this golfing comedy is Rylance. A one-of-a-kind actor, Rylance earned his own place in  underdog history when he managed an upset Oscar win for Bridge of Spies, beating the ultimate sports movie hero, Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Creed. Now, with The Outfit and The Phantom of the Open in the same year, the veteran stage actor is becoming an unlikely and prolific movie star in his own right. 

Maurice is one of the most lovable protagonists to come along in ages, and Rylance is ably supported by the great Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) as Jean Flitcroft, Maurice’s adoring wife. An all-too-common failing of this kind of movieor any movieis how thankless the “wife” role tends to be, and The Phantom of the Open gloriously avoids this trap with a relationship that is beautiful and inspiring. 

The always reliable Rhys Ifans is perfect as Keith Mackenzie, the increasingly frustrated official in charge of the Open, and the actors who portray the three Flitcroft boys are charmers. Simon Farnaby’s (Paddington 2) screenplay gives us a reason to feel an intense devotion to Maurice and his family before the opening sequence is over, and once that hole in one is scored, there’s no stopping the desire to see how this all plays out. As a director, Roberts makes a solid impression, giving The Phantom of the Open a bouncy pace and just enough visually creative moments to make it interesting without overwhelming the story.

The Phantom of the Open is hardly a cutting-edge drama, and it’s rarely hard to see exactly where the movie is going. Much like a day of golfing purely for enjoyment’s sake, a pleasant stroll along the fairway with fun little interludes along the way is all this movie is trying to offer and all that is needed. The Phantom of the Open left me feeling invigorated and rejuvenated, and it’s on par with some of the best films of the genre. Patrick Gibbs

Read more reviews of sports-centric films:
Film Review: Hustle
Film Review: King Richard