We Are Marshall
Directed by McG
Studio: Warner Bros.
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Running Time: 131 mins
Audio: Dolby TrueHD English 5.1, Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, French 5.1
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Release Date: September 18, 2007
Review Date: September 11, 2007
Sports movies are a conundrum. Presenting stories so primal and simple that they appeal to broad audiences, these films feature almost universal appeal. But because the audience is so aware of the mechanics of sports, watching daily highlights on Sportscenter and spending hours watching the games on television the actual production must adhere to our preconceptions of how the game is supposed to look, while trimming it down to maximize the tension and fit the game into the constraints of the movie’s length.
Nobody said it was easy to make a good sports movie. That’s probably why so many turn out mediocre. The good ones are more than just good sports movies; they tap into a larger social or personal issue that is broadly identifiable. “Rudy” spoke to the drive to succeed, if only for one glorious moment. “The Natural” was about a life thrust into the spotlight. “We Are Marshall” is especially prescient because it shows how a community can pull together to overcome tragedy, something this nation has seen in great detail on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the recent shooting at Virginia Tech, or the loss of an Ohio university baseball team in a bus accident.
So “We Are Marshall” speaks to social issues. That’s great. The question that remains is whether the film is any good. The highest praise I can offer is that this is a competently-told story that looks like it was plucked directly out of the 1970s. Pitch-perfect costuming and design coupled with inspired acting choices from a few of the primary actors—including Matthew McConaughey as the coach who took over after a tragic plane crash took the lives of the majority of the Marshall University football team—result in a fine and inspirational movie.
The story of the rebuilding of the Marshall football squad is recounted in a straightforward manner, resulting in a movie that lacks the inspiration the story should provide. Edited to present a variety of perspectives, the movie lacks focus because it jumps around trying to give justice to every different viewpoint, including school administrators, the players, students who are stand opposed on the plan to renovate the decimated program. While it may be more historically accurate to include these different people, it results in a stretched narrative in an already-long movie.
Luckily the players McG found to populate the film bring an energy that drives the movie. With few exceptions the cast is both entertaining and real, from the beleaguered cheerleader (Kate Mara) who lost her fiancée in the crash to the star defensive player who only survived because he didn’t travel (Anthony Mackie). The only weak link is Lost star Matthew Fox, who doesn’t add much to tortured Red Dawson, the coach who survived.
“We Are Marshall” is not a bad movie, by any stretch. It is emotional, powerful, sometimes raw, and generally entertaining. Hampered by a lack of focus and a litter of clichés the film still provides the chills and thrills expected of a sports movie. Football fans would be hard-pressed to find a reason to avoid at least checking this out.
A word of warning before I get into the review: I received a disc that consistently locked up at the 1:42.25 mark. I tested this on two players, so I know it is a manufacturing flaw in my disc.
Otherwise the video on this set is fantastic. Recorded in 2.35:1, the fine details are phenomenal. The quality was so good that I felt cheated by McG’s decision to film most of the football scenes with close-ups, which felt a little cheap and lackluster. Tangent aside, the video quality is very, very good.
Unfortunately I cannot be as kind to the audio track. Recorded in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, the disc often sounds unnaturally boomy, as if there were an echo in places like offices and empty football stadiums. I am not sure if this is a holdover from the original master or a result of the new transfer, however I found it overtly distracting.
By and large, however, the dialogue and effects are unmarred and come through in all their uncompressed glory. There are also options for French audio and French and Spanish subtitles.
Light on the extras, “We Are Marshall” disappoints. McG opines on the nature of “Legendary Coaches” and their importance to their teams and their society. While this is all fine on ESPN, and is a fairly decent documentary, it has little to do with the movie. There is another brief advertisement for Marshall University. Not that I mind plugging the new university, the truth is I am extremely let down by the quality of these extras and their applicability to the film.
The disc also contains a theatrical trailer and a brief advertisement that automatically plays before the feature film begins, which contains the film’s primary actors trumpeting West Virginia, Wild and Wonderful. Featuring painfully-obvious readings of just off-camera cue cards, these fantastic actors do little to sell their product. This is only worth watching to see a laughably-bad production featuring Hollywood stars.