Marshall University’s a West Virginia school
That bore an awful tragedy that no one could foresee.
Their football team just lost a game, but everything seemed cool
Until their chartered plane flew home and crashed so suddenly.
The school’s whole team (except for four), the boosters, staff, and coaches
Are sadly killed upon impact, consumed in flame and ash.
The whole town mourns in utter shock. As their school year approaches,
They all assume the football program perished with the crash.
Nate Ruffin, their team captain, thinks they ought to play, however.
He rallies Marshall’s students to demand a football team.
So President Don Dedmon seeks a coach to put together
Another team. His efforts, though, are fruitless, it would seem.
But Wooster’s coach Jack Lengyel contacts Don to fill the need
And help the hurting town to cheer for football once again.
Assistant coach Red Dawson doesn’t think they can succeed
But overcomes survivor’s guilt to help recruit more men.
In order for their team to grow, they need some freshmen players
So Don asks for an exemption from the NCAA.
It takes a trip to their headquarters before anyone cares,
But finally Don gets permission for freshmen to play.
The team Jack puts together with the constant aid of Red
Cannot compare with what they lost, despite how hard they train.
When Jack seeks help from a rival coach, he lets Jack go ahead
And study his successful techniques, feeling Marshall’s pain.
The new young team’s first loss is hard, and tensions start to rise,
But Jack inspires his whole team to honor those long gone.
While most in town support the team, a couple realize
They’re stuck in mourning what they lost and need to now move on.
When Marshall plays Xavier, the whole town views the game,
And, playing hard, the team from Marshall manages to win.
Although they lose most games that year, they later win acclaim.
They honored everyone who died by never giving in.

We Are Marshall is a seemingly formulaic sports drama that nonetheless creates the appropriate amount of heartache and inspiration to rise above the sum of its parts. The initial crash, though offscreen, is traumatic in its effect upon the characters: mothers, fathers, fiancées, sons, daughters, and guilt-racked survivors.

The mourning community is populated by skilled actors, including Ian McShane as a grieving father, David Strathairn as Don Dedmon, and Matthew Fox as Red Dawson. Being a huge fan of Lost, I found it enjoyable to see Fox, who played a different Jack throughout the hit series, in another role.

While Matthew McConaughey received praise for his portrayal of Jack Lengyel and recently won an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club, I didn’t care for him at first. His folksy quirkiness is at times more annoying than likable, but he grows into the character nicely by the end. Still, in Lengyel’s scenes with Red, I can’t help but feel that Matthew Fox seems to be more of an Oscar-worthy actor than McConaughey.

The film has some memorable and often funny training montages to great ‘70s music, as well as a number of cameos by various notable coaches and other famous people. Another thing I liked was the fact that Lengyel never promised miracles and never delivered any. Yet, despite all the pain Huntington, West Virginia endured, Marshall’s Thundering Herd went on to achieve great success, titles that would have never been won had the town just given up after the crash. While there is no real mention of God amidst the tragedy, some scenes in a church reveal the town nevertheless sought comfort in the Lord.

We Are Marshall may not be a perfect film, but it possesses some undeniably powerful moments, such as when a rival college’s players are shown with crosses on their helmets in solidarity with Marshall, plus a rousing ending that proves that a tragic loss need not define one’s future.

Best line: (Jack Lengyel) “Ya see, Red, it doesn’t matter if we win, or if we lose. It’s not even about how we play the game. What matters is that we play the game. That we take the field. That we suit up on Saturdays and we keep this program alive. We play the game, and, Red, I’m tellin’ ya one day… not today, not tomorrow. Not this season probably. Not next season either, but one day you and I are gonna wake up suddenly; we’re gonna be like every other team, in every other sport where winning is everything, and nothing else matters. When that day comes… well, that’s when we’ll honor them.”

Artistry: 6
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 6
Visual Effects: 5
Originality: 5
Watchability: 6
Other (brief language): -2
TOTAL: 33 out of 60

Next: #280 – A Bug’s Life

© 2014 S. G. Liput