Many sports movies blend together, relying as they do on inexperienced, undersized, or underfunded underdogs. We Are Marshall presents a different kind of underdog: a team built literally from ashes, as nearly the entire Marshall University football team was killed in a November 1970 plane crash. The story of the Marshall Thundering Herd was begging to be told, and McG gets it just right. The director known for his flashy approach to the Charlie's Angels movies, and for the abbreviated moniker that irks his detractors, shows exquisite maturity in handling this sober material, eliminating the bombast, but keeping the crispness and visual kineticism appropriate to a football movie. Of course, this is much more than a football movie. The Marshall plane crash realized the distant fears felt whenever an entire team boards an airplane together, and the aftermath predictably tore the school and the town apart. Matthew McConaughey's Jack Lengyel rightly observes that it doesn't matter whether the greenhorn Marshall players win, or even how they play, but that they play. This frees We Are Marshall from having to follow the structure of a typical sports film, letting it instead be about the unimaginable process of building a team from the ground up while the principles are deep in mourning. Playing a football coach, McConaughey has found a role perfectly suited to his mixture of playfulness and sincerity. He gives a warm, precise performance, never once phoning it in. Other standouts in the cast include Matthew Fox as the assistant coach who was supposed to be on the plane, Ian McShane as a prominent booster who lost a son in the crash, and Anthony Mackie as a player who missed the trip due to injury, whose grief-stricken passion is perfectly toned. That rush you feel whenever an undeterred crowd chants "We are Marshall!" is no manipulation. This is an intense story told with heart.