Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
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As 1979 came along, the United States wanted to put together a hockey team that would be able to compete with other countries that had dominated the Olympics for quite a while. In 1964, 1968, 1972, and 1976, the Soviet Union had taken the Gold Medal for Hockey during a stretch that helped them attain the title of the best Hockey team in the world. Currently on a 42-game winning streak, it appeared that they were just about unbeatable, and that in order to compete the United States was going to have to come up with one fine team. There was turmoil going on all over the world, and there was a lot of strife around the Soviet Union going into Afghanistan and attacks on Cambodia. The world was seeing a lot of chaos, and it appeared that the people of the United States were losing hope. As Jimmy Carter put it, for the first time in our history people believed that the next five years would be worse than the last 5 years. It was in this climate that the Miracle was set to take place.
Having already been turned down by their top two choices for coaches, the United States Olympic Committee called in Herb Brooks to talk about him coaching the team at the 1980 Olympics. Having coached in Minnesota for a lot of years, he had won several championships, and had proven that he knew a lot about how to play the game of Hockey. He was also a player for the U.S. Olympic team in prior years, and was someone who had Olympic experience. Coming into the meeting, he had his own plan on how the U.S. should play the Soviets, and showed that he was going to use many of his own ideas, which had not been seen in U.S. hockey as of yet. Though some of the people in the meeting did not take well to his personality, they ended up giving him the shot to coach the team. With the Olympic Games nearly 7 months away, he wanted the people who would be playing to have as much ice-time as possible before heading off to the games. The 1980 Olympics were set to be held in Lake Placid, New York, and the importance of at least putting on a good show in front of the home crowd was on the minds of everyone forming the team.
In Miracle, Kurt Russell plays the lead role of Herb Brooks, coach of the team. For those that have seen past photos, or interviews with Herb Brooks, know that Russell could have been a dead-ringer for him. With his hair cut long with big wave across the top, Russell looked exactly like Brooks to me as well. I think that this went a long way towards making his story believable, because most hockey or even sports fans had heard of Herb Brooks and his 1980 Olympic squad. It then became important to make sure that we were not held up from believing him in the part as an audience. I think that Russell did it very well, although it was quite obvious that they took a lot of liberties when it came to explaining Brooks and his home-life and interactions with the team. Russell was not quite able to portray Brooks in the same manner he acted in real life for 2 reasons. One, was that by the end of the movie, we as the audience needed to be able to stand behind him and not be held up by what went on in his personal life. The second part, was that the movie was made by Disney, and some of the subject material that was cut out would not have been appropriate for the audience they were going for. To put it simply, Brooks was not the nicest guy, on or off the ice, and that he had more family problems than just spending too much time with the hockey team. But, at the same time, this is a movie that does not need to be bogged down by things that were not important to the end result of the story.
The movie starts for real, as Brooks and the coach that he has chosen, hold the first try-outs for the people who want to make the team. The Olympic Committee has organized the most talented amateur players in the United States into one hockey rink, to help form the best team of players that they can. The way it will work, is that there will be a 7-day session, which at the end of, Brooks and the Committee will sit down and figure out the best 26 players who will be kept on. Those 26 will eventually be trimmed down over the months, and finally arrive at the 20 that will be going to play for our country. Much to the surprise of everyone, Brooks makes his decision of the first 26 at the end of the first day. He dictates that there is no reason to keep him on if he cant make up the team that he wants to from the players. But, the reason they are upset with the choices that Brooks has made, is that he has not gone with the most talented, or the best hockey players available. In fact, he has even gone with a back-up goalie as his choice. He explains he reasoning as being that he knows what he wants to see in the players, and he knows witch ones will be best for the team. He does not want individuals who will take over a game, but rather a team of players that can work together as one.
The task now put to Brooks is to get 26 kids with many different backgrounds to work as a team. On his squad though, he has many kids who have been rivals in past years for colleges and such, and because of it several scuffles and fights break out. You cant just throw a bunch of kids together and expect them to become the best without hard work behind it. Instead of having a normal first day, he also gives the kids a 300-question test that asks questions about what the players would do in any given situation while going about everyday-life. The test serves as a jump-off point for Brooks to be able to see inside the kids and find out what they are made of. He also does not give them practices that they are used to, but rather practices that will help them to attain the one goal that he has for them: to be the best conditioned team at the Olympics. For years it has been said that the Soviets are too quick, are too fast, and are plain-out just to good to stay with on the ice, and Brooks wants to take the chance at being able to hang with the other team for the duration of a game. To do this, he must train the kids harder than they have ever been trained before.
For all of the players on the team, the roles were actually played by hockey players. What the producer/director and the casting director wanted to do was get hockey players who could act, and work with them from that stand-point. They figured that to make sure that the movie had as much realism as possible, that the most important thing to do was make sure that all of the hockey scenes looked authentic. For one of the roles, they even got the son of the original player to come on and play that role. After seeing the movie, I am very glad that they went that route, because all of the scenes that involved hockey looked very real, and to top it off, none of them was terrible at acting either. This film was important to the United States, because it showed something happen that nobody actually thought was possible. The U.S. team that was out to shock the world took the 1980 Olympics by storm, and if you dont know the story by now, this is a must-see movie to get caught up on your U.S. History.
I highly recommend renting or purchasing the DVD because of all of the extras that come along with it. One of my favorites is an interview conducted by Sports Center anchor Linda Cohn. She interviews 3 former members of the 1980 Olympic team, and Kurt Russell at the same time, and they talk about the impact that this team not only had on Hockey, but on American thinking. It is something that helped shape the thought-process of a generation, and helped pave the way for a lot of things in the years to come. It helped show that there was indeed light at the end of the Cold-War-Tunnel, and that a mere sport could show us that. I highly recommend seeing the film, because it makes it very clear just how hard they had to work to even have a chance at accomplishing something in the 1980 Olympics. Whereas as in hockey today, there are a ton of countries that play in the NHL, back then there was a them and us mentality which was helped to be broken down by what happened at these Olympics. Even if you know the story, take the time to see this well-acted film, about one of the most memorable sporting events of United States History.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups