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
On the DVD
Introduced by director McG, "Legendary Coaches" (37 minutes) has real-life coach Jack Lengyel (portrayed in the film by Matthew McConaughey) recalling his time at Marshall and reading a letter he received from President Nixon. Then five championship coaches discuss their coaching philosophies and overcoming adversity: Bobby Bowden (Florida State football, and also portrayed in the film as the 1971 coach at West Virginia), Pat Summit (Tennessee women's basketball), Lute Olsen (Arizona men's basketball), George Horton (Cal State Fullerton baseball), and John Wooden (UCLA men's basketball). Also included are a current promotional spot for Marshall University and the theatrical trailer. --David Horiuchi
More We Are Marshall
Football is a game that knocks you down, then expects you to get back up. Life hit the West Virginia town of Huntington and its Marshall University even harder. When it did, Jack Lengyel came by to help pull them onto their feet by taking the job no one wanted: rebuilding the Marshall football program only months after a plane crash wiped out Marshall's beloved Thundering Herd. Matthew McConaughey portrays Lengyel, the energetic, compassionate coach of inexperienced players whose chances of victory are slim and none. They'll go with the slim. And as they do, their true-life story of heart, healing, and football will thrill and inspire you. It's game day. Time to play till the whistle blows!