Sunday, December 23, 2007

WE ARE MARSHALL - self-consciously manipulative TV drama

We're not honoring them, Jack, we're disgracing them.In 1970, a small US town called Marshall suffered a tragedy. Its much-loved varsity team and many other townsfolk died in a plane crash after an inter-state match. In the wake of the tragedy, the university's first instinct was to close down the football programme for practical and emotional reasons. But the few remaining players decided that the best way to honour the deceased would be to continue fielding a team. So began a battle to recruit a coach and a new set of players, and to turn those raw players into a proper football team. In addition, the university had to lobby the ruling body for special dispensation to play.

Out of such a tragedy, one might fashion a truly uplifting redemption-through-sports drama that also served to honour the memory of the deceased. Sadly, this film is not it. Director McG, of CHARLIE'S ANGELS fame, chooses to drench a fundamentally moving story in unnecessary schmaltz. It's all there: sepia tones, stirring sound-tracks, and sports-scenes that are shot and edited like a music video. The actors do a decent job, for the most part, but simply cannot withstand the wave of emotional manipulation. The exception is Matthew McConaughey, who plays the new coach. Without a stern director to temper his natural instinct to ham it up, he camps up his role for all its worth and at times seems to be pastiching the sports movie genre. Definitely one to avoid.

WE ARE MARSHALL was released in the US last December but was not released in the UK. It is available on DVD.

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