We Are Marshall Doesn’t Quite Score!

We Are Marshall PosterWhen a film has its heart so firmly in the right place, it's a shame to have to say that it's not wonderful. Unfortunately, despite all the best intentions, We Are Marshall is a clunky, overbearing film that seems to wallow in its sadness…

The tragedy that struck Marshall University and the town of Huntington, West Virginia is one of the worst sports-related tragedies ever. The school's entire football squad, all but one of its coaches, and a number parents and boosters died in a plane crash minutes before they were to land at home. The date was November 14, 1973, and the result was not merely a gutted sports program, but an entire town laid emotional waste.

Despite efforts by the school's board of directors to scrap the football program, the student body refused to let it happen, but the school's program took two decades to reach its former level of glory. We Are Marshall looks at the time between the crash and the second game of the following season.

The opening minutes of We Are Marshall follow the team and coaches as they prepare to fly home after a big game. We get a feel for the team's camaraderie, and watch as one assistant coach takes over a recruiting trip so the scout can get home in time for his daughter's piano recital. In the chartered plane, we hear the pilot announce that they'll be landing soon, and to take your seats. Then, suddenly, the screen goes black.

It's a sobering prologue to the story of a town and school that are destined to fight through some of the hardest times imaginable. It's also the best part of the film.

We Are Marshall - Lengyel & Dawson

This is the film that Charlie's Angels director, McG, chose to establish himself as something more than just an action director. The opening scenes suggest that he can pull it off, too. Then things go awry.

To begin with, various of the scenes of the townspeople in shock – and grieving – tend to go on for enough beats too many that it gives one the sense that the film is wallowing in the town's grief. For another, the music – by the usually reliable Christophe Beck – doesn't so much support and enhance the film as demand the audience feel this way here, and that way there. Frankly, these two elements took me out of the story enough times that I found it difficult to buy into its positives.

The way the student body demands to keep the football program alive is one of the few genuinely touching moments in the film. Another comes when the father [Ian McShane] of the quarterback appeals to his late son's fianc


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