The film is- in my mind- split into two different halves; the first lasting about 40 minutes, and the second taking up the remainder of the film. The first will throw you- it certainly threw me. It lays the “feelings” on thick; slamming home the totality of a small-town's loss (let me make this clear- the movie is about a small American town that loses it's entire football team in a plane crash. True story.). But it makes it so abundantly clear that it is such an awful, awful thing, that it gets a bit over the top. And of course with McG behind the helm, you know he's gonna make it look as “stylish” as he can. But then, everything changes. The “2nd half” begins, and you can even mark the turning point with a cut to black.
We are properly introduced to Matthew McConaughey's would-be captain, and we are immediately intrigued by this personality. More people need to see this flick; if only to see McConaughey really pull off the role. He practically disappears into the role: he walks with this strange, hunchback duck-walk, has this odd, sideways way of talking, and speaks like a car salesman and doesn't give a fuck like one too. He is packed to the brim with charisma, almost to a fault. David Straithairn plays his foil tremendously well as the straight-laced president of the football board, and Matthew Fox actually does really well as the haunted ex-vice coach who was supposed to be on the ill-fated flight, but made a last minute switch. His final scene in the film does his character's arc true justice, and makes you appreciate how complex his character's emotions are.
I may be talking about actors a lot here, but that's because it truly is a film defined by the performances. I mean, sure, the football sequences are awesome, and the story is quite interesting, but without these fantastic, fully-rounded people onscreen, we just wouldn't care all that much. Take note of this: my favourite sequence in the film, with future star Anthony Mackie-
Aww jeez, now I'm tearing up. What a scene. And in the context of the film taken as a whole, it's even more heartbreaking.
More people need to see this flick. This gets a