We Are Marshall (2006)

Rated: PG Grade: AAAA=A

Directed by: McG, who makes the current series Chuck and has formerly worked on some episodes of Fastlane, directed both Charlie’s Angels movies, and made music videos for Korn, Sublime, Offspring, and the Pussycat Dolls.

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Matthew Fox, David Straithairn, Anthony Mackie, Ian McShane, Kate Mara, January Jones, and Kimberly Williams.

Summary: This is the true story of what happened when the plane carrying all but four members of the Marshall University football team, the coaching staff, and many boosters crashed with no survivors in West Viginia in 1970. After the tragedy, everyone affected had to decide what to do about rebuilding the football program. In the end, they hired the only man willing to take on the task, an unusual coach and father of two boys named Jack Lengyel, who went on to create a program that thrived.

Entertainment Value: A After the first few times I cried or wanted to do so, I started counting. Seven times. What can I say? This movie is outstanding. It’s gripping. It’s realistic. It’s triumphant with characters caught in the various stages of grief, pain, hope, and redemption. I’d have trouble thinking highly of the film skills of anyone who didn’t think highly of this film.

Superficial Content: A Drugs/Alcohol B+, Sexuality A, Violence B+, Language B, Illegality A The only real violence in the movie is the plane crash, which is not shown. There are some scenes of angry behavior, including unsportsmanlike conduct. There’s no sexuality at all. There is some profanity, but it is necessary and appropriate in the circumstances. Some scenes involve drinking beer. Obviously, PG is the correct rating given the very heavy themes of loss and death, but the movie is virtually squeaky as a PG.

Significant Content: A Recovery from loss. How to honor the dead. How to have hope in the presence of tragedy. The importance of winning. Trying your best, no matter what the odds or the circumstances. Not quitting.

Artistic/Thought Value: A Again, what more can be said. You should just watch it. It’s that simple. If a movie can be described as a feel-awful/feel-great movie, this is the ultimate expression of that concept.

Discussion Questions:
  • Do you think that the actions of Marshall, coach Lengyel, and the broadcaster’s son honored those who died?
  • Much of this movie is dealing with the question of the importance of winning compared with simply doing your best. The line, “Winning is everything” gets discussed heavily. What do you think of this concept and the discussions of it in the movie?
  • Coach Lengyel used some very unorthodox methods in his coaching. Do you think that a more orthodox or safer approach could have gotten any results worth having?
  • How would you feel if you were the coach who had been on the plane but switched places with another coach? What about the players who had stayed home? Have you ever had to deal with guilt over an incident that produced grief? What should we do when things like this occur?
  • In retrospect, rebuilding the team seems like a great choice, but can you think of reasons why the people would want to not do so? Compare this decision with the decision to not rebuilt the world trade towers.
  • Are there any “bad guys” in this movie? Does your view of the more difficult characters depend on sympathy for them? How does the difference between judging and sympathizing with these characters imitate our attitude toward other people who do things we dislike as compared with God’s attitude toward them? Consider the relevance of the phrase, “Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.”
Overall Grade: A Seriously. If you haven’t yet seen it, do so. It’s that simple.

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