Walt Disney Pictures
Directed by Gavin
Written by Eric Guggenheim
Produced by Mark
Ciardi, Gordon Gray and Greg O’Connor
Starring Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson, Eddie Cahill,
Noah Emmerich, Michael Mantenuto, Patrick Demsey
and Sean McCann
It’s one of the most famous catchphrases in
modern American culture, and probably the most significant
in the history of American sport: “Do you believe
Al Michaels uttered those words 24 years ago, when
the U.S. National Hockey Team— a group of
marginally talented, relatively inexperienced young
off the unbeatable Soviet Union and went on to win
the Gold Medal at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in
Lake Placid, N.Y.
It was a feat so impractical, so impossible, that
if you ever saw it in a movie, you’d brush
if off and say to yourself, “No way that could
ever happen in real life. What a piece of Hollywood
But it did happen. And it stands as the defining
moment in American Olympic history.
Finally, their story— particularly the story
of Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell), the coach who orchestrated
the team’s improbable run— has made it
to the big screen.
I can’t be absolutely positive how true the
script is to the actual behind-the-scenes story of
Team USA, but the story seen in “Miracle” is
believable and interesting. Brooks, then the head
coach of the University of Minnesota hockey team,
sets out to do the improbable, which for American
hockey meant qualifying for any medal at all. He
assembles his team and begins training seven months
before the opening of the Winter Games. Over the
course of those seven months, we see the players
training harder than they ever had, as Brooks promises
them they will be the “best conditioned team
out there.” We see in-team fighting, struggles,
arguments, locker room controversy and of course,
that old cliché, “becoming a team.”
But that’s only the backdrop. This is not meant
to be a film about the rigors of playing international
hockey, and for the most part it isn’t, though
that aspect is strong. “Miracle” also
isn’t a movie loaded with clichés, which
is a miracle in and of itself.
With material like this, especially when it’s
produced by Disney, the filmmakers could have made
this the cheesiest, most disgustingly inspirational
sports movie of them all. But they didn’t.
They don’t play up its cliches, its heartwarming,
uplifting moments. Sure, there are a fair share of
fairly cliched lines and subplots, but they aren’t
overdone and they don’t get in the way.
Even when Brooks gives his locker-room speech before
the big game with the Soviets, he keeps it low-key,
therefore keeping the dramatic tension that a more
melodramatic speech would have ruined.
Like pretty much all good sports movies, “Miracle” is
anchored by strong characters. Russell finds the
right note as coach Brooks and does a fine job with
a Minnesota accent. The always-reliable Patricia
Clarkson is loveable as Brooks’ wife. And despite
a glut of hockey players who all get screen time,
the script manages to find time to turn the main
players into well-rounded characters.
But what really sets this film apart is the on-ice
action. In so many sports movies, the action looks
so amateurish and just plain fake that it’s
hard to do really get involved in the action. What
we have in “Miracle,” however, is expertly
choreographed hockey action, some of the best sports
action ever put on film. That is especially evident
during the pivotal medal round against Russia.
A friend of mine suggested that if they wanted to
make a good movie out of it, they ought to just show
the actual hockey game in its entirety.
Indeed, how do you recapture something so historically
and culturally significant and do it justice on the
silver screen? Can it even be done?
The film uses Al Michaels’ actual
game commentary and uses it over the intense game
action, making it seem as though you’re actually
watching a real game— except much closer.
Even though we all know the game’s outcome,
director Gavin O’Connor keeps the tension alive
until the final buzzer and Michaels’ now-legendary
Making a story like the “Miracle on Ice” actually
believable— not to mention exciting— was
a long shot. But somehow, despite Disney and despite
the PG rating, they pulled it off. Yes, I do believe