Blame Rocky for the state of sports movies. The come-from-behind-to-win-or-almost-win the big game was used very effectively in the first (and most recent) Rocky movies but filmmakers have been using it for inspiration ever since. That’s thirty years of inspirational coaches and underdog players. The sports and that faces change, it’s just the story that remains the same.
We Are Marshall attempts to tell a slightly different kind of story. Based on the true story of the Marshall University football team, it’s coaches, staff and fans who were all tragically killed when their plane crashed in the Appalachian Mountains on November 14, 1970, the film chronicles a town’s need to heal after a heartrending loss and a new coaches’ struggle to rebuild the team.
Matthew McConaughey, in a quirky performance and even quirkier 1970s sideburns, plays the coach hired to start from scratch and whip together a team that will boost the spirits pf the town.
The movie’s structure doesn’t stray too far from the tried and true sport’s movies conventions—guess who wins the big game—but there is something in McConaughey’s strange performance that is quite entertaining. He’s still an inspirational coach, but at least he’s a weird inspirational coach. That’s not much, but it’s enough of a departure from the sports movie norm to set this movie apart from the pack.