Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I have nothing against McG. He makes a certain type of film, usually. And I can't help but smile when I watch the first CHARLIE'S ANGELS. It's so over the top, but filled with such great character actors and beautiful women (not to mention a kick-ass soundtrack) that I can't help but dig on it. Not so much CHARLIE'S ANGELS 2, but it looks like McG has changed gear with WE ARE MARSHALL. The trailers and TV spots don't make it look like anything special, but I've been hearing some surprisingly strong word on it. I really want to see Matthew Fox outside of the LOST world (in a lead role), so I was going to see this anyway. Now that the word is coming in pretty positive, I now might not regret giving money to this film. Here are two reviews, both positive. We start with "Jamey." Enjoy!
When previews loop on television touting the release of “We Are Marshall”, the inspirational football drama starring Matthew McConaughey, we can’t help but feel that we’ve seen this film countless times before. In many respects, we have. Like all great sports stories, the film’s focus is on overcoming overwhelming obstacles and rediscovering the true spirit that transcends the game. We know going in that the team will suffer their fair share of stumbles along the way to victory. We expect a rousing finale that will lift us from our seats. We can reasonably predict from the opening frames that this small town, whose entire sense of community seems defined by football, will suffer a series of devastating setbacks, find the strength to summon their remaining will and come together one last time to ensure triumph. And, yet, this film is different because Marshall is different. Marshall University is one of those small-town colleges that thrive on their football program. Nestled within the close-knit mining community of Huntington, West Virginia, MU harbors one of the most tragic events in the history of sports. In November of 1970, while returning home from an away game, 37 players, all but one member of the coaching staff and several traveling fans were tragically killed in a fiery plane crash. The traumatic event branded a deep scar in the hearts of the four remaining players, the sole surviving assistant coach and the community at large. In an instant, the unassuming people of Huntington were forever transformed. The tactful recreation of these tragic events only constitute the opening ten minutes of “We Are Marshall”, but the resulting grief is palpable throughout. The remainder of the film recounts the struggle to rebuild the team in the face of strong dissention. Is it a noble attempt to honor the memory of the fallen teammates and reinvigorate the town’s waning spirit? Or is it a misguided exercise in bad taste that will only succeed in pouring salt on fresh wounds? After every qualified alumnus of the university rejects the opportunity to become the team’s new head coach, Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) steps in and, with help from the school’s flustered principal (David Strathairn) and the surviving assistant coach (Matthew Fox), attempts to resurrect the team from the ground up. McConaughey scurries about the screen like an anxious, oily slickster and at first appearance his comedy-tinged antics are a little off-putting. But the film, with its warranted preoccupation with loss and mourning, benefits greatly from his peculiar and energetic presence. He is an outsider, like the new team members that assume the duties of the deceased, and he’s navigating distressed waters just like everyone else in the town. He keeps the theme of the picture alive and keeps it from wallowing too heavily in its portrait of pain. The film fails to capitalize on some potentially dramatic possibilities. There should be a greater investment in exploring Lengyel’s family life, as well as the difficult transition the replacement players must conquer. As a result, these “outsider” characters remain outside and slightly out of reach. The picture would benefit enormously from exposing these differing points of view. What the film conveys with great authority is the gravity of the town’s suffering and their timid reluctance to move on. Director McG (“Charlie’s Angels”) has crafted surprisingly effective moments that visually channel the depth of the town’s despair without showboating. Fearing that he’ll miss his granddaughter’s piano recital, an elderly fan is given a seat on the doomed flight early on in the picture. Later, the granddaughter is briefly shown playing the piano during his memorial service. There is a startling simplicity of expression in moments like these, and in many of the film’s beautifully composed frames. It’s the subdued observations that get at you more often than the robust ones do. That’s not to say that the film isn’t loaded with its fair share of maudlin sentimentality. The somber strings cue us into the “big” moments nearly every time. The character and story arcs hold no surprise; you can chart every emotional beat from a mile away. Stories that aim to illustrate the dreaded, overused “triumph of the human spirit” motif, by their very nature, rely on the safety of predictability for their effects. What really matters in “We Are Marshall” is the authenticity of these emotions. To that end, the brunt of the picture’s success rests on the actors’ shoulders. None more so than Anthony Mackie. Mackie plays Nate Ruffin, one of the last surviving players who became the catalyst for the team’s reinvention. He textures his performance with a quiet determination that emanates from a barely-controlled rage. When he tearfully confesses his deepest regrets to McConaughey late in the film, he creates one of the most genuinely powerful cinematic moments of the year. His performance works because it’s all heart. So does the film. We Are Marshall: B+
Now for a shorter, somewhat more cynical, look at the flick.
Harry-- ...Seems to be a week for screenings; I went to see We Are Marshall, and was pleasantly surprised! I saw this with 4 others, mixed company, and all had good things to say. Most of what I would say is covered by RubberBandMan on the 5th, and I can't disagree with any of his points. However, I'd like to expand a bit. Note there's very mild spoilers... When Rubber Band Man says "I guess the thing that really won me over was that it wasn't superficial. It was sincere.", he hit the nail on the head, and it's symbolized best with the opening words "This is a True Story". Not 'based' on a true story, just simply TRUE. The credits contain the source material used-- the real life characters and newspaper clippings from the time period--and the mode is that of real life. There's no happy ending, and no warm fuzzy resolution where everyone goes on to greatness. In fact, they make a point to tell you that half the people involved pretty much lived average lives after the preceding story ended. This struck a real chord with me, and it pretty well erased the memory of the blocky pacing and the lack of a central plot climax from my head. The only other thing I have to mention is Matthew McConaughey. I hate this guy, I really do, but he was the perfect casting for this role, and the chemistry he has with the other actors on screen is undeniable. He lent some great lighthearted moments to a rather sobering plot, and there were a number of laugh out load moments in the movie because of him-- and they weren't one-liners for the most part, but character acting. He's a friggin' cartoon, an awkward transplant to this little town, with no shame and all the grace of a Double-E at prom. Oh-- and the plaid pants nearly made me cry... My verdict is that this is a gift horse for the guys in this holiday week...it may not be something you're dying to go see-- it IS real life after all--but if you need to find a compromise to entertain the girl, see this; it's a hell of a lot better than what she'll pick out. Node-Z