Monday, January 28, 2008

We Are Marshall

We Are Marshall tells the story of the 1970 plane crash that killed 75 people, including the Marshall football team, and the recovery the town makes over the next year. Already a great story and it is hard to mess that up unless you do a TV movie of Into Thin Air or you let director McG have his way with your story.

McG is a very ambitious filmmaker in terms of his broad shot selection and his bag of camera tricks. This works very well when you are trying to dress up a 2 hour pile of shite like Charlie's Angels, but when you are doing a character study about a very sensitive subject... it doesn't work. In fact, the camera stunts are right out of an asinine episode of CSI Miami. Okay... with that being said, WAM is actually a fine film once you get through idiot camera movements.

The story revolves around 6 main characters. Matthew McConaughey is top billed for his performance as Jack Lengyel, the only man who take over a program that lost almost it's entire staff and players. The real lead is Red Dawson's (Matthew Fox) character. Red was the only coach not on the plane thanks to a recruiting trip he had to do after the final game of the year. Anthony Mackie plays the only returning starter who feels survivor guilt for having missed dying on the plane with his friends thanks than injury that kept him home. Kate Mara plays the young fiance of Ian McShane's son who died in the plane crash. Mara also serves as the narrator... Last but not least, David Strathairn plays the interim President of Marshall U. that is trying to pull everything together so the town can have football again.

All the performances are fine, even if McShane's and Mara's are almost completely unnecesary to the plot. Matthew Fox and McConaughey are adequate here, but hardly revelatory. Mackie and Strathairn shine when given the chance. The best acting of the bunch is the ten minute cameo that Robert Patrick has at the beginning of the film. Now that man can play a football coach! The rest of the plot is simple with the normal "conflicts" thrown in to complicate things now and again.

This most certainly is not a "football" movie. There is three small sections of games that punctuate the acts of the film, but this is more a character story. McG just doesn't have the chops to bring it all together perfectly, but it is enjoyable. After watching it though, you wonder what a Peter Weir or Steve James could've done with this material?


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