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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.
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on July 4, 2004
"Miracles" starring Kurt Russell is riveting. I saw the original game and although I am not a huge hockey fan, this movie kept me on the edge of my seat. (Even though I KNEW how it would turn out.)
Kurt Russell is brilliant in this movie in such an understated way. He has the accent and mannerisms of Brooks down pat!
The truth was that the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team was so bad (in comparison to the Soviets who were so good because they had professional players) - that none of the other coaches really wanted to take the job. Brooks had something to prove at the Olympics, however.
And yes, this is a "feel-good" movie. It shows our country during a time when everyone banded together to pull for a team that seemingly didn't have a chance. Our country had been enemies with the Soviet Union for 30+ years at that time and we were very angry that the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan. This was MORE than about a hockey game! It was about national pride.
What I liked so much was that it wasn't some story that shows superhuman odds. Rather, it showed incredibly hard work and the adage that Brooks stated to his team, that basically the Soviets were a better team; they could play the Soviets 10 games and the Soviets would certainly win 9 out of the 10 games; but the USA only needed to win ONE GAME against them. This is the story of that one game and the immense dedicatation that led them there.
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In a period when so many Americans are distraught over the daily news, "Miracle" truly lives up to its name. Kurt Russell plays Herb Brooks, the no-nonsense coach who handpicked two-dozen hockey players and trained them in an amazingly short period of time - just in time to beat the highly successful Russians. In 1980, the Cold War was strong and there was never a better time than to have a little known American hockey team beat the 'big, bad' Russians in a small American town called Lake Placid. Everything about this film is brilliant, from the detailed styles of hair and dress to the subtle Minnesota accents. Few films can present a story with a known ending and succeed with such tension and fanfare. This is a classic film and one that everyone should see. This is one collectible where the extra features are all welcome and without fluff.
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on June 8, 2004
what a poorly acted and unentertaining movie. Taking a few days to write an overly long kiss (...) review will not make it any better. Honestly, anyone on the left should know the game was thrown for the sanctity of poor relations between us and the dominent soviets. lucky for us, we soon had Reagan and all of the sugar coated media goodies like this fake match went away. For a better movie rent Schindler's list because the only true underdogs were the jews that made it out alive.focus people
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on July 5, 2004
I got my son this DVD for his birthday; he's a 12 year old hockey player and anything having to do with hockey is exciting enough for him. The movie was exciting enough for me as well as it brought back memories of an exciting event in US sports history. I'm not sure it was "the greatest moment in sport history" as the cover of the DVD claims, but it was pretty darn good. I remember it well as do most sports fans who witnessed it live or on tape delay. The "miracle" of course is the US/Soviet hockey game in the semi-final round of the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. A popular trivia question since then has been, "Who did the US defeat in the Gold Medal hockey game of the 1980 Olympics?" Surprizingly, most people get it wrong since, after besting the Soviets, the US still had to go out and beat the Finns. The Finns get shorted in this movie as well but that can be forgiven since the title of the movie refers to the one game in particular. The strength of the movie is the focus through the eyes of the coach, the late Herb Brooks. Through his drive and determination, we see the forging of a team that is able to go beyond itself. The players are well represented but not over done as was the story of Jim Craig and his dad in the actual coverage in 1980. That wasn't their fault, however. That was the fault of a media that felt there had to be a human interest story to every event; a human interst story of their own chosing. "Miracle", by and large, escapes that mistake which is rare for Hollywood and even rarer for Buena Vista Productions. The build-up for THE GAME is steady and methodic as, I presume, was the coaching of Herb Brooks. The excitement and enthusiasm is enthralling even though we all know the eventual result.
I would have rated this a 4.5 if possible. I stopped short of giving it a "5" mainly because I'd recently seen "Mystic River" and felt there's a level of excellence that this movie just doesn't quite achieve. I also wondered what the point was of including portions of President Carter's "Malaise" speech; historical perspective on just how desperate the country was for anything good? See the movie with your kids. As will most Disney productions, this is a movie the whole family (even Mom) can enjoy.
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The first hockey games I ever watched were during the 1980 Winter Olympics and I know I was not alone in that respect. It took a while to understand what a blue line had to do with icing the puck and I have never gotten past the idea of what basketball would be like if it was played the same way as hockey (you are allowed to follow the guy with the puck/ball). But I remember watching the games the U.S. Hockey Team played against the Soviet Union and Finland. How big was the miracle that Al Michaels proclaimed during the final seconds of the semi-final match against the Soviets? Well, when "Sports Illustrated" came out the next week there was no need for a headline or caption on the cover photo of the U.S. team celebrating.
Knowing what is going to happen in "Miracle" is important because if we did not know that this team is going to win the gold medal then we might suspect the means that coach Herb Brooks (Kirk Russell) is using to achieve that end. Brooks is haunted by the 1960 Winter Olympics, when he was cut from the U.S. team a week before it won the gold medal. It was also the last year the Americans beat the Soviets on the ice and Brooks knows how to pull off the upset against the best hockey team on the planet. All it will take is a team that he handpicks playing the way he wants them to play.
The best part of this film is watching how Brooks does exactly that and then becomes basically a spectator and cheerleader when his team goes out and wins the gold medal. Director Gavin O'Connor hits a bulls eye with the casting of Russell, who should get serious Oscar consideration for his performance. The hard driven coach who puts his sport before his wife and family is something of a cliché, but what matters here is how Brooks' determination and intelligence comes through as he molds his team.
The production also scores because they went out and got hockey players to act instead of trying to fake us out the other way around. The only real professional actor on the team is Eddie Cahill, but he plays goalie Jim Craig. You can put anybody you want behind a mask in goal on the ice (former Edmonton Oilers' goalie Bill Ranford in fact) and because Craig was such high maintenance and high profile he was the one role where you needed to up the acting level. But Michael Mantenuto as Jack O'Callahan, Patrick O'Brien Dempsey as Mike Eruzione, Nathan West as Rob McLanahan, Eric Peter-Kaiser as Mark Johnson, and the other 15 players on the team are playing exactly what they are: hockey players brought together to create a team.
One thing I was surprised about in the film was that there is never an explicitly stated reason why Eruzione was picked as the team captain. Yet in the context of the film I was right in thinking that I knew exactly what Eruzione was going to do that was going to make him stand out as first among his teammates. (You will know what I am talking about when the moment comes).
The fidelity to recreating the moments we remember from the 1980 Olympics was quite impressive. You can check out the added features on this two-disc DVD set to see direct comparisons of the television footage from the actual games with the movie's re-creations as well as the techniques used to give you a dynamic feeling of being on the ice. Of course getting Al Michaels to "call" the games again was a necessity and it is not surprising that they worked in the original version of his famous line that gives the movie its title. You can re-create history but you cannot really improve on it, although this 2004 film does a nice job of trying to accomplish that particular feat. I just wonder if those who know nothing about what happened at Lake Placid in 1980 can appreciate that as much as those of us who do.
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on June 24, 2004
I didn't have very high hopes for this one. I expected a stereotypical sports movie with lots of "We're number one!"jingoism and lame little sub-plots about team members who overcome various personal issues at the last moment so they can help their team win the big game. Instead, what I saw was a gripping recreation of a specific moment in U.S. sports history, the 1980 victory over the Soviet Olympic hockey team--the mood of the country, what this particular victory meant to Americans, and how one driven man, coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell), forged a team that was capable of pulling it off.
In a sense, there are really only two main characters in this film--the coach and his team. Although I came to recognize the players' faces by the end of the film, one of the courageous decisions made by director Gavin O'Connor and screenwriter Eric Guggenheim was to focus on the dynamic between Brooks and his team rather than on individual team players. This choice allows the filmmakers to avoid many of the usual sports film conventions and tell a story that we don't see very often, the story of the coaching style that brought them success and the enormous pressures placed on the coach himself. The cast is wonderfully restrained, but Russell is especially good.
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on June 18, 2004
What an amazing event that took place in 1980, and what an amazing story. I was only six years old when the game took place, but was unable to watch it on TV. The Cold War was still at its height. I recall as a kid we sometimes played a war type game and usually the imaginary enemy was the Soviets. I'm sure the kids growing up in the Soviet Union where playing war against the imaginary American enemy too.
This movie shows how Herb Brooks molded this group of young men from different colleges and backgrounds into the US Olympic Hockey Team. Not just a group of men that would play hockey in the Olympics, but a true Team! At the same time the movie gives us a since of what political events where taking place, and the low moral that Americans felt at that time. The action scenes on the rink really made us feel that we are there, not only in the stands watching, but actually on the rink. They used awesome camera shots. Although we know the outcome of the game, watching it can put you on the edge of your seat. And when the final buzzer ends the game, you can really feel the pride and happiness that people at Lake Placid and also people at home watching felt back in 1980. What a moral boost!
Winning a hockey game can seem very trivial, but this win was something we Americans needed. The pride and moral boost that it gave us was a very welcome gift. And maybe, just maybe, this hockey game was what helped start the thaw in the Cold War. Today the Soviet Union is no more, and Russia can be called a friend. Maybe this game did have a small role in that.
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on June 14, 2004
Absolutely not! "Miracle" takes a simple hockey game(a sport deemed regional to this day), and shows viewers how it not only captivated a nation, but also how a game can come to represent change.
This is a highly motivational film, full of subplots involving many of the characters and political undertones. When you boil down to it, though, this is a movie about Americans being Americans. Unlike most films, this one shows the Soviets as the arrogant, unstoppable force. Soviet hockey was exactly that at the time. Americans are shown to be average folks just trying to get by, many giving up money for one shot at Olympic glory.
Overall, the film is amazingly accurate. From dekes and wristers to hairdos and hope, this movie stays true to formula. The extras are knockout as well.
I highly recommend this movie. The language isn't too bad(a cuss word here or there), and it has a great message of hope to it. Don't blow this off as another "hockey movie." "Slapshot" this ain't.
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on June 14, 2004
I remember sitting around the television, with members of my family, to watch the USA Olympic Hockey Team defeat the Russians in 1980. At the time, the country was in desparate need of a morale boast, in part because of the Iran hostage crisis. The spirited and hard fought victory in thae pivitol game did just that. As a hockey fan and considering the state of NHL today, I was wondering if Miracle would help recreate that sense of pride I felt at the time.
This is the true story of the late coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell), who in 1980 had the distinction of having been the last player cut from the U.S. hockey team the last time the team won the Gold at the Olympics (in 1960). Brooks got his chance at being part of a medal-winning team, however, when he led the U.S. hockey team to victory over the Soviets (who had won the medal the last four times: 1976, 1972, 1968, and 1964 since that 1960 U.S. win) at the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid despite overwhelming odds.
Directed by Gavin O'Connor, the film faithfully honors the actual events. As Brooks, who sadly died in a car crash in August 2003, Russell gives yet another great performance. His work here demonstates something that I think few folks realize--just how good an actor he is. He plays Brooks as he truly was, a multi-layered man, whose style and innovation are the stuff of legend. I also enjoyed the performance of actress Patricia Clarkson playing Brooks' wife. She deserves all of her newfound acclaim and success. The film will take you back to that era--right down to the clothes and interesting hairstyles. The hockey footage is staged very well and is almost as exciting to watch as the real thing. The movie takes the David and Goliath aspect to the story and does it justice without going overboard or making it seem artificial. The cast of "players" are very good as well (and they can actually play the game).
The 2 disc DVD set has a solid bunch of extras. The audio commentary with O'Connor, editor John Gilroy and director of photography Daniel Stoloff, gives listeners a well rounded discussion on how the film came together. "The Making of Miracle" is a fairly typical featurette..."First Impressions: Herb Brooks with Kurt Russell and the filmmakers" ends up being a fine tribute to Brooks. I also enjoyed the ESPN roundtable with members of the 1980 team, actor Kurt Russell and host Linda Cohn and "From Hockey to Hollywood: The Actors' Journey" featurette, how real life players made the movie teams. Outtakes/deleted scenes and a sound effects/soundtrack featurette rounds out the set.
With those in charge of the NHL nattering over the fate of the league's future, Miracle restores my hopes for the game. I think both sides should be required to watch this film.
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