I was one of the few people that defended McG's direction of Charlie's Angels, I thought it was spot-on for that particular film. The sequel, I wasn't as fond of, but it had a stupid, goofy charm that made it enjoyable. So I was interested in seeing what he could do with a film beyond that world, but was surprised when he signed on to do We Are Marshall. I wasn't sure if he could do drama, if he could calm his camera and editing down to a reasonable pace. After finally getting around to seeing it, he proves that he's got some adult in him as well.
Now, I wouldn't call Marshall, a great or even a very good film, but it's passable; good enough to keep you interested in the story. He gets some fine performances out of some good actors, I particularly liked David Strathairn as the school's Dean and Ian McShane as a grieving father. Matthew Fox has got the quiet, pensive act down pat. Matthew McConaughey is trying too hard not to play himself, he's got a weird accent, that must be some attempt at trying to sound like the real guy, but it came off as distracting; I thought he should have been reigned in a little more.
I was born after the Marshall University plane crash tragedy, thousands of miles away, so I didn't know anything about it's history. There's no way I can attest to the accuracy of the film's portrayal, it feels real enough, but there are scenes that are definitely built for emotional impact. At least they don't have the football team coming back to win the National Championship, they're content with having a moral victory. I thought that the football scenes were overly dramatic, turning routine plays into something way beyond that; and everything was shot too close, so it's hard to tell what's really going on. But I appreciated the passion that surrounded the games, I liked the journey the team, coaches and town takes getting back to the field. From what I've read those touched by the tragedy, were happy with the film, and since it's their story, that's what's most important.
If I didn't know, I would never have been able to tell this film had the same director as Angels; it lacks that visual panache, but it's a story that didn't need it, an over-active camera would have felt out of place. What most felt like his touch was in the soundtrack, he has a penchant for Top 40 hits used in the most obvious ways; and you'll recognize every song as a classic rock staple. I think that McG has a decent career ahead of him, he'll turn out to be a competent studio director, that's comfortable in multiple genres. And maybe just every once and a while he'll knock one out of the park. We Are Marshall, is a fairly nice sports drama, it won't become a classic, but it goes down smoothly without a bad aftertaste. - Grade: B-