We Are Marshall DVD Review
by Kam Williams
DVD of Bittersweet Gridiron Drama Revisits Real-Life Airplane Disaster
On November 14, 1970, 45 members of Marshall University's football team perished en route home from a game when their DC-9 crashed less than a mile from the airport. The loss took a great toll on the tiny town of Huntington, West Virginia, where the school is located, because so many lives were affected by the accident.
The administration initially decided to discontinue the football team entirely, but was subsequently convinced otherwise by a student body which had rallied around the handful of varsity players and sole assistant coach still alive. We Are Marshall, however, is an unusual sports flick in that it is less concerned with the gridiron feats than with how the community dealt with its grief in the wake of the disaster.
The film stars Matthew McConaughey as Jack Lengyel, the replacement coach brought in to resurrect the team from a combination of junior varsity players, walk-ons, and fresh recruits. And Anthony Mackie co-stars as Nate Ruffin, a junior co-captain who hadn't made the fateful flight because of a shoulder injury.
The movie marks a radical departure from fluff for director McG (Charlie's Angels 1 & 2) who more than meets the challenge, employing a talented ensemble to recreate the nagging pall which had permeated Huntington in the wake of its enormous loss. Also to its credit, the film does its best to avoid the tried and true staples of the sports genre, such as that ubiquitous moment when the underdogs win the big showdown with a highly-touted rival.
So, what ultimately makes We Are Marshall special is that the satisfaction it delivers doesn't emanate from a cliché victory scene, but from an assortment of touching tableaus every step of the way along the painful healing process. Bittersweet, but more than worth the emotional investment.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for mild epithets, mature themes, and a plane crash.
Running time: 131 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Extras: "Marshall Now" and "Legendary Coaches" featurettes, plus a theatrical trailer.
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