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An Inspirational, Feel Good Film For Everyone
on July 13, 2004
I'm not a big fan of spectator sports. A group of guys batting, kicking and/or hitting a ball around a field doesn't do much for me, usually. But one time when guys, pucks and sticks made me cheer, as I sat riveted to my TV screen, was during the 1980 Olympic "Miracle."
1979-1980 were not good years for the United States. Militant Iranians took US citizens hostage in our embassy in Teheran, the USSR invaded Afghanistan, the Cold War was at below zero temperatures, and at home gas prices were sky high, as were interest rates. The film is set in the context of this period, which makes it even more exciting. Americans really needed something to cheer about.
In the summer of 1980, newly hired US Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks took a group of boys, average age 21, worked them 'til they dropped for seven months, taught them new strategies, made them into a cohesive team, and miraculously led them to unbelievable victory. They beat the pants off the unbeatable champion Soviet hockey team in what has been called the "Miracle on Ice." In a super surprise win, the underdog US team, which had played poorly against the much older Russian veterans a few weeks before at Madison Square Garden, made all the right moves to score success, 4 to 3. The team then went on to win Olympic Gold! The Cold War may be long over, but remembering the moment still feels sweet. The look on the Soviet coach's face alone is worth the price of the rental. And now the "moment" and more can be relived - seen on the big screen, with accurate details and superb characterizations, in director Gavin O'Connor's and screenwriter Eric Guggenheim's "Miracle."
Kurt Russell is superb as coach Brooks. He has the Minnesota accent down pat, chews gum like Brooks - 500 chews per minute...and even looks like him. Actual ice hockey players were cast as teammates in O'Connor's quest to make this an authentic sports film. The last 30 minutes of footage are devoted to the US - Soviet match. But the movie is as much a character study as it is a film about Olympic sport. And Russell's understated, intense performance is compelling. Patricia Clarkson is excellent as Brooks' wife Patty, as is Noah Emmerich as assistant coach Craig Patrick.
The movie is dedicated to Herb Brooks, who was tragically killed in an auto accident over a year ago. He is portrayed as a complex man who was totally dedicated to his sport and his team, to the detriment, at times, of his family life. This is a wonderful film to see with the entire family. You don't have to be a hockey fan to remember February 22, 1980.