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We Are Marshall
Not just a simple underdog story
We Are Marshall
Matthew McConaughey Stars in the Sports/Drama "We are Marshall".
OPENING WEEKEND: $22,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $102,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

September 4th, 2006: On a fateful November night in 1970, a tragic airplane crash takes the lives of 75 passengers, mostly Marshall University’s football players and coaching staff. The catastrophe leaves the school and the entire surrounding community in deep mourning. A bond of true camaraderie unites everyone in grief, regardless of whether they had a loved one on the flight or not. In the little town of Huntington, West Virginia, football has always been treated as much more than a little sport, but now the program is in danger of being suspended indefinitely. Struggling with his emotions and going against his own judgment, Dr. Donald Dedmon (David Strathairn), the University’s president, respects the wish of the student body and agrees to allow the football program to return the following year. However, an incomplete roster and the lack of a head coach will do little to boost the community’s deflated spirit. Help eventually comes from outside the town. A determined young coach named Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) hopes to bring the sort of strength and leadership that will lift the program and the entire town right along with it. Together with returning assistant coach Red Dawson (Matthew Fox), who decided to drive home instead of taking the tragic flight, Jack begins the rebuilding process. Both help rekindle a sense of passion in the community through their work with the young athletes.

What to Expect: Sadly, this film is based on a true story. On November 14th, 1970, The Marshall University football team had a flight back home after losing a tight game to East Carolina. Five coaches and 37 members of the team boarded a chartered DC-9 jet that would carry them back to Huntington, West Virginia. It was a cold and foggy night and the visibility was poor. While approaching the runway at the Tri-State Airport in Huntington, the plane struck a tree and crashed into a hillside. All 75 passengers, who also included fans, university employees, and airplane crewmembers, perished.

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The crash would go on to be known as the worst tragedy in American sports and understandably consumed the community with immeasurable grief. It greatly impacted a small town where the University’s football program was always of great importance to the population of approximately 50,000 people. Although initially the school wanted to suspend the program, many people, the students in particular, fought to keep it alive. The most instrumental figure in the rebuilding process was the team’s new coach, Jack Lengyel, who stepped into the most awkward situation with a firm belief that he could turn it around. He would go on to lead the team to two victories in 1971 and a 9-33 record in the four years that he stayed there. At every step of the way, Red Dawson, an assistant coach who did not take the flight as a result of a scouting mission, would be there to help Lengyel during the severe transition period. He only stayed on for one year to help rebuild the team before resigning.

The University’s first choice for a head coach was Dick Bestwick, but he left after only one week and returned to Georgia Tech. When Lengyel heard about the incident, he called Marshall himself and offered to take over the position. Being a deeply passionate man, he felt that the team needed strong leadership during the period and sensed a calling to do the job himself.

Matthew McConaughey will star as Lengyel in what might become his biggest role to date. After seeing him hold his own against Al Pacino in Two for the Money, I believe that he can bring the right spirit to the production. Matthew Fox will play Red Dawson, a man burdened by the fact that he was not on the fateful flight. He actually heard about the crash on the radio in his car while driving back. The “Lost” star has zero big screen experience to speak of so I’m not quite sure what he will be able to add to the part. This is unquestionably his biggest role to date. Additionally, it seems that the real Jack Lengyel and Red Dawson will have cameos in the movie. One player that shared a similar fate to Dawson was Nate Ruffin. Since he was injured at the time of the flight, he was scratched at the last moment and his seat on the plane was given to a team booster. Ruffin would also become one of the instrumental figures in getting the program together after the crash. He’ll be played by Anthony Mackie (She Hate Me, The Man, Freedomland). Oscar Nominee David Straithairn should be a good luck charm for the picture since he tends to choose projects of the highest quality. The actor is an ideal choice to portray Dr. Donald N. Dedmon, the University President who takes the tragedy perhaps even more personally than anyone. The relatively sad and withdrawn man thought that it was important to allow the families to have some mourning time rather than worry about some football game, but he made a difficult decision and honored the general sentiment of the community by reinstating the program. Finally, Ian McShane (Sexy Beast, Scoop, “Deadwood”) will play a steel mill executive who deals with his son’s death quite differently from the majority. As an influential university board member, he becomes one of the opponents of resurrecting the football program.

Oddly enough, McG, is the director on We Are Marshall. The filmmaker started out by shooting music videos for rock bands like Korn and Offspring and went on to make the two obnoxious Charlie’s Angels features as well as the unbearable and short-lived television show “Fastlane.” This is quite a step up for him, but it seems like he will return right back to his roots following We Are Marshall since he has been chosen to helm Hot Wheels – a live-action flick based on the line of toy cars. Fortunately, it seems that the crew has been quite diligent with the production. They’ve even gone out and collected team memorabilia from the time period in order to remain as authentic as possible. The film was shot on the Marshall University campus as well as other parts of Huntington, West Virginia, and Atlanta. The premiere is likely to be held in Huntington, shortly before the movie hits theaters across the country.

The film’s title is derived from the school cheer. The subject matter is probably far more personal than in any other inspirational sports picture of the past couple of decades. The movie will not dwell on the crash itself, but will instead closely focus on the community that was brought together by the horrific tragedy and the healing and rebuilding process that followed. Undoubtedly, it will point to the same lessons that many films of this sort point to – face adversity, lift yourself up, keep fighting, and find a way. However, it all seems much more appropriate and much more difficult to pull off tastefully knowing the nature of the subject matter. For the people in Huntington, the crash and the events that followed were defining moments. They have been watching the production very closely, hoping it does not become some trumped up melodrama. With any luck, McG will stay away from any technical wizardry on the football field and will remain focused on telling the story with the consideration it deserves. There’s also always the possibility that We Are Marshall turns out overly sugar coated.


In September of 1971, in their first game back at home the season following the crash, Marshall defeated Xavier with a final second touchdown pass that put them over the top by a couple of points. In all likelihood, this will be a crucial moment in the picture and possibly the film’s climax. If that is the case then even this picture will fall victim to the clichéd practice of having the story lead up to the final big moment in a final big game. But those type of movie moments actually occur in real life once in a while.


In Conclusion: One cannot go for more than a couple of months without a new inspirational football story popping up in the theaters. I suppose the exciting sport perfectly represents the idea of teamwork that is important in the story. Furthermore, football is one of the grittiest sports, it films well, and it can be molded into just about any metaphor for life. This film will take it a little bit further into previously unfamiliar territory. It’s a bit risky, especially if We Are Marshall does not do the story justice. However, it looks to be promising enough. Between this film, Pride, Pursuit of Happyness, and A Good Year, one of the features is bound to become THE feel-good film of the year and a potential underdog at next year’s Academy Awards.

Similar Titles: Remember the Titans, Friday Night Lights, Rudy
December 22nd, 2006 (wide)
September 18th, 2007 (DVD)

Warner Bros. Pictures


Matthew McConaughey, Matthew Fox, David Strathairn, Anthony Mackie, Kate Mara, January Jones, Kimberly Williams, Arlen Escarpeta, Ian McShane, Huntley Ritter, Brian Geraghty, Robert Patrick

Total: 363 vote(s).

Drama, Sports

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Rated PG for emotional thematic material, a crash scene, and mild language







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