We Are Marshall (2006)
Directed by: McG
Premise: The true story of the plane crash that killed Marshall University’s entire football team and the attempt to resurrect the football program by the surviving players and the university staff.
What Works: We Are Marshall is led by Matthew McConaughey as Jack Lengyel, Marshall’s new head football coach. McConaughey brings his energy, charisma, and mischievousness to the role in ways that pump a lot of life into the picture. However, the standout performances of We Are Marshall belong to David Strathairn as Marshall President Donald Dedmon and Anthony Mackie as Nate Ruffin, a surviving football player who takes on the responsibility of saving the football program. Strathairn delivers a performance that is perfectly calibrated but done with such subtlety that it is easy to overlook. Mackie’s role is really the heart of the film and he carries much of the picture, especially early on. As a sports film, the story of We Are Marshall is able to break out of some of the usual entrapments of the genre. Although it features the same basic premise seen in many of these films (i.e. a new coach uses unconventional techniques with a rag-tag group of outcast athletes and turns them into champions), the story of We Are Marshall does a fine job conveying what the tragedy meant to the Marshall community and the film is at its best when it concentrates on the mourning and healing process through football.
What Doesn’t: With the exception of the final game, the cinematography of We Are Marshall looks sloppy and the editing is clumsy. The training and playing sequences do not add much to what other football films have done and largely imitate superior pictures like Friday Night Lights but only on a superficial level.
Bottom Line: Although this film is not as good as Friday Night Lights or Invincible, We Are Marshall is a strong effort. Despite its shortcomings, the film is a satisfying piece of entertainment.
Episode: #124 (December 31, 2006)