From the Ashes They Rise

27 Dec

Like any sports movie worth its salt, We Are Marshall plays with your emotions using the typical methods: an underdog who everyone has counted out, swelling orchestra music to generate a bigger response, gruff non-believers, and more.

So knowing you’ll be getting stuff like that going in means you have to evaluate the movie on a different level.

To that end, Marshall is a movie you can root for. It’s not the best sports movie ever, and it doesn’t really earn your tears like, say, Rudy does, but it’s a rousing tribute to how a school and community got back on its feet after a terrible loss.

Based on the true story of the 1970 plane crash that killed most of the Marshall University football team, as well as its coaching staff, boosters, and other supporters, We Are Marshall begins with the team being told that forget how you play — winning is the only thing that matters.

So when the plane crashes, and the entire community is devastated, the school takes an uncharacteristic approach and decides to absorb the loss and suspend the football program indefinitely.

The surviving members of the team, including Nate Ruffin (the excellent Anthony Mackie), band together and enlist the school’s student body to convince the school board they want football to continue.

Along comes Coach Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey, with all his folksy charm) to give the program a reboot. And wouldn’t you know it, he gets the job done.

The big lesson of the movie is, of course, that winning and losing aren’t important; it’s how much heart you put into the game. And to that end, there seem to be a lot of good intentions here.

David Strathairn (as the school president) and Matthew Fox (as Red Dawson, the lone surviving coach) both give good performances, and while McConaughey basically spends half the movie being his charming, down-home self, when he finally digs in, he’s impressive (particularly in his inspirational speech where he tells the team “Funerals end today!”).

Sure, the football game scenes should have been shot and scored to something a little less modern, and maybe the film does play with your emotions too much when in some cases it really doesn’t have to, but overall, We Are Marshall earns my respect.

It’ll likely play very well on cable; I can already see myself tuning in to watch time and again. I’m giving the movie a B.

One Response to “From the Ashes They Rise”


  1. Come Back When You’re Ready « Martin's Musings - September 21, 2012

    […] Jamie Linden (whose credits include the screenplay of We Are Marshall) balances the action across the various characters and storylines well, giving equal attention to […]

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