December 15, 2006 We Are Marshall
Studio: Warner Bros. Rating: PG for emotional thematic material, a crash scene and mild language.
It's a story about rising from the ashes to glory...
"We Are Marshall" begins with the November 14th, 1970 Thundering Herd game at East Carolina. Traveling by air back to Huntington all 75 people on board are killed when the plane goes down about a mile from the Tri-State Airport.
Some at the school and in the community want the program to continue. Others want it to end. As the school's board meets to vote on the issue, Marshall football player Nate Ruffin makes a surprise appearance to argue for the Green and White.
With a multitude gathered on the lawn below the meeting room chanting "We are Marshall!" the decision is made to keep the team going.
Faced with a monumental rebuilding task, Marshall president Donald Dedmon hires Jack Lengyel to guide the Young Thundering Herd. Lengyel convinces surviving assistant coach Red Dawson to join him. A last minute decision kept Dawson off of the fatal flight. Together they work to resurrect the program.
But tough times lie ahead as Lengyel pulls out all the stops to keep the dream alive.
"We Are Marshall" stays pretty true to the actual events upon which it is based. Of course Hollywood takes liberties here and there but the story doesn't stray enough to become a problem.
Although Matthew McConaughey is the lead and delivers a quirky yet solid performance as the head coach, this film's heart and soul is Matthew Fox. His Red Dawson, who is dealing with his own survivor's guilt while trying to help Lengyel re-establish the team, is what gives this movie its emotional depth. Fox is so good I think he deserves an Academy Award nomination for his work.
Along with Fox, Anthony Mackie's Nate Ruffin is fantastic. Ruffin also missed the flight because of injury. His never-ending efforts to keep playing to honor his fallen teammates are inspiring and Mackie pulls off a top-notch performance.
David Strathairn is also very good as President Dedmon who brings Lengyel into the fold and supports his efforts fully.
On the down side, a couple of fictional characters thrown into the mix don't add quite as much. Ian McShane's grieving father and Kate Mara's Annie, who lost her fiance in the crash, help move the story along but really don't have a big impact.
It's the real people and their real stories which make this movie work.
Director McG has said he wants to move away from action films to make more character driven movies. He also promised to tell the Marshall story with honesty and dignity. He succeeds on all levels. The photography is beautiful, cold and harsh when re-telling the sad times, but warm and soft as the team and the school and the town move forward.
This isn't a perfect movie. In fact, I thought McConaughey's portrayal of Lengyel was a little too goofy. There are too many montages and the emotional "We Are Marshall" chant of the students felt forced and didn't deliver its intended impact.
But overall it chronicles a heart-wrenching journey from the pit of despair to the pinnacle of hope.
The fact that it's true makes it that much better.
On my rating scale, "We Are Marshall" hits a Home Run.
HELL'S KITCHEN Tonight at 8:00 PM 5 Chefs Compete, Part 1 of 3
The chefs are surprised by family members and then participate in a pressure cooker test