In 1970, when 75 members of Marshall University’s football team and coaching staff were killed in a plane crash, it was a horrible tragedy. When the film “We are Marshall,” based on the devastatingly true story of Huntington, W. Va., was released Dec. 22, 2006, it was an amazing and touching tribute to those who lost their lives and those who were left trying to pick up the pieces.
When the horrific plane crash occurred, the hopes and dreams of the entire community also crashed down. Not a person in the small town of Huntington was left untouched by the loss. Similarly, not a single person in the movie theater was untouched by their story.
Going into the theater, I knew the story of the tragedy and of Jack Lengyel’s efforts to rebuild the team, and ultimately the community. However, I had no idea just how touching the story would be. My eyes filled with tears multiple times during the movie.
The grieving families, the girl who lost the love of her life, the little boy who would never hear his father announce another game, the coach that was supposed to be on the plane, the football players who lost not only their teammates, but also their best friends. Each individual story broke my heart another time.
But then, even though there were tears sliding down the cheeks of most of the audience, the entire theater would be rolling with laughter. Usually, it was Lengyel, played by Matthew McConaughey, coming up with another funny idea. And then, there was a feeling of hope and inspiration when his crazy ideas worked.
McConaughey brought a lightened mood to the movie with his silly mannerisms and Southern accent. He actually did such a great job with the role that you didn’t even notice how good looking he is…okay, maybe that was his funny ’70s clothes, but he still did a great job.
Also, there were the football scenes that were unlike typical sports movies. With a brand new team made up of freshman and athletes recruited from other sports, the team was anything but stellar. However, they were driven and devoted to proving that bringing football back to Huntington was indeed what the town needed.
Watching the team, you can’t help wanting to clap for and cheer on the “Thundering Herd.” And anytime the team chanted “We are Marshall,” you wanted to join in with them. With people like Lengyel, Red Dawson and Nate Ruffin giving their all to help rebuild the team and community, it is impossible not to want to support them in their efforts.
By sticking close by the facts of the true story, “We are Marshall,” brought much-deserving recognition to a community and school that overcame tragedy with amazing courage and spirit. In addition, parts of the movie were filmed on campus and around Huntington. Many Marshall faculty, staff and students were used as extras in the movie.
The film allowed for other opportunities to recognize and honor the community as well. For example, McConaughey led the crowd at Marshall University’s Conference USA football game in October in the “We are Marshall” chant. The movie also premiered in Huntington with the stars walking down a green carpet, instead of the usual red, prior to the Hollywood premiere.
Although the movie is no longer in the Topeka theater, you should make every effort to see it. If the movie comes to the dollar theater, it would be the best $1.50 you could possibly spend. And if not, definitely put this movie on the top of your list of movie rentals.