Matthew McConaughey as Jack Lengyel
Matthew Fox as Red Dawson
Anthony Mackie as Nate Ruffin
David Strathairn as President Donald Dedmon
Ian McShane as Paul Griffen
Kate Mara as Annie Cantrell
January Jones as Carol Dawson
Kimberly Williams as Sandy Lengyel
Arlen Escarpeta as Reggie Oliver
Brian Geraghty as Tom Bogdan
Tommy Cresswell as Gene Morehouse
Christian Kanupke as Young Keith Morehouse
Nina Jones as Mrs. Morehouse
Kevin Atkins as George Olson
Mark Patton as Bill James
Directed by McG
“We Are Marshall” tells the true story of the fall of the 1970 Marshall University football program after a plane crash kills the entire team. The following year, Marshall University decides to go forth with an inexperienced depleted squad and new coaches despite a tremendous amount of adversity from grieving parents, students and alumni.
As a college football fan, I must admit that the story of Marshall is very vague to me prior to seeing the film. Over the last few decades, not much has been said of the horrific events that befell Marshall University in 1970. “We Are Marshall,” directed by “Charlie’s Angels'” McG, is able to go back in time and capture the pain and emotion felt by the residents of Huntington, West Virginia. The actual plane crash is never shown, only the burning remains, however the blink-and-you-miss-it depiction of the plane going down is nothing short of haunting. From this moment on in the movie, “We Are Marshall” is no longer a football movie, but rather a tragic story of loss and how a family and community goes on with life.
Matthew McConaughey plays the new team’s head coach Jack Lengyel. People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man of the Year” is anything but. (Let me just say that the ’70s fashion style never worked and I am very glad that it will not be making a comeback anytime soon.) What McConaughey does bring is a cowboy charm that only he can bring that blends seamlessly with this heart-wrenching tale. The star power of McConaughey does not supercede the story of Marshall.
“Lost” star Matthew Fox plays the Marshall Thundering Herd’s assistant coach Red Dawson. By fate, Dawson does not board the plane that crashed. Instead, Dawson is forced to grieve and live a guilt-ridden life as he returns to help coach Marshall for one final year. Fox is able to respectfully show the courage needed to step back into life once again after a tragedy.
Also playing a prominent role is “Deadwood” star Ian McShane. No parent should have to bury his or her child, and McShane delivers a powerful performance as Paul Griffen, a parent of one of the fallen players. The pain of losing a son can be felt in each of McShane’s scenes. His eyes convey a pain that cannot be accurately be described, a truly memorable performance to say the least.
The Bottom Line:
“We Are Marshall” is not your typical feel good sports movie that is released during the holiday season, and it’s a far different movie than this year’s “Invincible” and “Gridiron Gang”. The telling of Marshall’s fall from grace due to horrible circumstances is a powerful story that not many college football fans know about. McG and the cast give Marshall’s story the proper respect it deserves. What “Rudy” does to display the spirit of Notre Dame, “We Are Marshall” does the same for its respective university.