February, 2004: Miracle

Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, Russia and US. It seems that relations between the two countries were in a similar place in the 70s, as the 2004 motivational, feel-good, hockey film Miracle shows us. Unlike sports films of a similar ilk (Friday Night Lights, Remember the Titans), Miracle focuses on the coach that assembles the team and not the actual members on the ice– in the end, it suffers for it.

We open with Herb Brooks’ (Kurt Russell) interview for the head-coaching position of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team. Herb impresses the counsel with his diagnosis of what ailed the previous US teams– teamwork. See, the Russians work together as a squad, but Americans are only concerned with star-power, glitz and glamor. He’s quickly hired and put to work; it’s worth noting that one of the main differences between the US and Russia is that Russia uses professional players, whereas the US uses semi-pro and college players to comprise their ranks. Brooks’ determination outweighs his hurdles as he puts together a rag-tag group of young hopefuls that best the Russians during the 1980 Olympics in a true display of sports greatness.

Miracle happens to be one of those difficult-to-critique movies– there’s not a whole lot to talk about since, in general, the film is very solid. Kurt Russell delivers one of his most underrated performances as the scrappy, determined coach and the cast of characters that surround him do a good job of making things believable. The cinematography is nothing special until the third act (the hockey game) basic framing, basic tracking, maybe a little too much shaky cam. The sound can be overbearing at times, but I won’t let my crappy, $100 TV from 2010 go up against the behemoth sound-systems in the Regal down the street.

A common theme in sports movies is that they tend to focus on a few main individuals within the team– leaders, if you will. Miracle strays away from that formula, pretty much only fully developing Herb Brooks. I couldn’t name you one of the 20 young men that made up the team (John seems like a good bet), and I certainly don’t remember his wife’s name, who was seemingly only there to constantly rain on Brooks’ parade (a common trope in sports movies, the nagging wife with no other purpose). This is, perhaps, the biggest issue with the film; we don’t get to experience the ups and downs of the players in a meaningful way, so we don’t care when they have their setbacks. While Brooks is certainly a compelling character, and Kurt Russell nails the stereotypical coach vibe, he’s not enough to carry this story for 135 minute run-time.

Matt: Watch if you like hockey and history
Gabe: Watch if you like hockey and history

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