Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
MIRACLE is the true story of the USA's 1980 Olympic hockey team who triumphed over the previously undefeated Soviet team. It shows the behind the scenes story of Herb Brooks, the hockey coach who developed a squad of unknown players into Olympic Gold medal winners.
Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) approaches the US hockey program with the concept of building a team from unknown amateur players rather than all star hot shots. He plans to introduce them to a new style of hockey. The Hockey Board questions Brook's tactics, but since they don't have anything to lose they reluctantly agree to give his ideas a chance. Coach Brooks is given only seven months to develop a team that can defeat the Russians, who have dominated the world of hockey since the 1960s.
Brooks takes a group of college hockey players who were formerly bitter rivals and develops them into a winning team. His challenge is to teach them to play a new style of hockey, while training the players to peak physical condition, and then choosing the 20 players who will compete at Lake Placid. He tells them, "I'll be your coach, but I won't be your friend." With on-the-ice action scenes and dramatic locker room clashes, filmgoers follow the players through their grueling transformation. Coach Brooks' off-ice struggles with assistant coach Jim Craig (Noah Emmerich), and his wife, Patti (Patricia Clarkson), tell the story of an isolated, driven man attempting to recapture an opportunity to compete at the Olympics. As a college hockey player, Brooks himself was cut from the team that would go on to play in the Olympics. In his final locker room speech he tells the team, "Great moments are born of great opportunities." He finds his own second chance at Olympic Gold in Lake Placid.
MIRACLE is a wonderful movie experience, suitable for the entire family. It opens with a collection of news stories with pictures and sound bites from the Watergate scandal, the Carter administration, and the Iranian hostages, to set the stage of the nation's state of mind prior to the 1980 Olympics. The message is that this was more than just a hockey game, it was a moment in sports that inspired the entire nation.
Kurt Russell's portrayal of Coach Herb Brooks was a moving tribute to a coaching legend. Russell reportedly spent three months skating every day and studying films of Brooks' speech to capture the coach's Minnesota accent. His transformation was an outstanding performance. Sadly, Herb Brooks died in a car accident on icy roads prior to the release of this film.
Director Gavin O'Connor cast real college hockey players, turning them into actors to fill the roles of the team players (Michael Mantenuto, Patrick O'Brien Demsey, Kenneth Mitchell, Eddie Cahill, and Nathan West). The rival Soviet team features a few former NHL players, Bill Ranford (Edmonton Oilers), Mike MacWilliams (New York Rangers), Randy Heath (New York Rangers), Sasha Lakovic (New Jersey Devils), and Todd Harkins (New York Islanders and a former Team USA member). You won't want to miss the film credits, which feature short bio's on the original 1980s team, giving you the scoop on where the players are today. Screenplay by Eric Guggenheim. Cinematographer Dan Stoloff. Running time 130 minutes, Rated PG.
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