This is the best Sports Feel-good movie we’ve seen.
There seems to be no end to beating-the-odds football movies these days, and if they all peak with a breathless moment of anticipation during a clutch play, then We Are Marshall, based on a true story, has plenty of (mostly good) company. Matthew McConaughey plays Jack Lengyel, who becomes head coach–more or less by default–of Marshall University’s rebuilding varsity football team in Huntington, W. Va., after the school’s 37-member team and coaches (and a number of others) die in a plane crash in the Appalachian Mountains on Nov. 14, 1970. Facing an indifferent college president (David Strathairn) ready to shut the football program down, a morose assistant coach (Matthew Fox), and a charged-up player (Anthony Mackie) who missed the doomed flight due to an injury, Lengyel is faced with fielding a new team and putting the players through their paces. There are the usual, perhaps too-familiar, training montages and field action, but screenwriter Jamie Linden and director McG (Charlie’s Angels) also draw some very good performances from the likes of Kate Mara and Ian McShane, contributing to an emotional tapestry conveying a powerful sense of how such a sizable loss affects a small community. –Tom Keogh