I do watch some of the Olympics, usually only a few events, even though I'm really not much of a fan of sports. In 2004 Miracle, a movie about the 1980 United States hockey team, came out.
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In 1979, the United States is looking to put together a hockey team for the 1980 Winter Olympics. Herb Brooks, the head coach for University of Minnesota, is chosen to coach the US team. Herb has different ideas about training and even who should be on the team. As the Olympics draw closer, Herb pushes the team in ways that have some questioning his motives.
Despite not following hockey or knowing much of anything about it, I had heard enough over the years to know that the United States won the gold in the 1980 winter Olympics. The ultimate outcome is known going into watching Miracle, which some people may feel is a drawback. Even though the win against the Soviet team is shown along with a bit of the final game and medal ceremony, the main focus of the movie isn't on those things. Yes those are important moments for the team, but they don't receive a ton of attention. Instead, the movie is more focused on the forming of the team and all the work preparing for the Olympics. I think this is a very entertaining movie and I still enjoy it after having seen it several times now.
The opening credits of Miracle show news footage and newspaper clippings from the 1970's. That works to help establish the time period better and even set the mood. Things were difficult in a lot of ways at that time and that is probably at least partially why the hockey team winning gold meant so much to the country. The fact that the team went into the Olympics being huge underdogs who weren't expected to do much makes their victory more poignant. Some people may feel this is just another sappy, feel good sports movie. I don't think of it that way. There are emotional moments throughout it, but I don't think that makes the movie sappy. When the credits begin, information is shared about the real men from the team and what they were doing at the time the movie was made.
Miracle starts with Herb's interview for the coach position, with him talking about how he thinks things have to be changed. Once he gets the job, it doesn't take long for Herb to start doing this his way regardless of what the committee or even his assistant coach thinks. He picks the team he wants himself, without input from anyone else and starts training them his way. As the movie progresses, it becomes clearer why he pushed the players like he did. At some points, the players just react to what Herb says without understanding what he is really doing. There are confrontations between some of the players, with Herb, and even between Herb and his wife. From what I have read, some of those things were changed or added for the movie.
Several scenes deal with some sort of training. The guys that Herb picked for the team all played hockey in college and had some talents. He ends up pushing them all more than they had ever been pushed before. At times, he seemed like a huge jerk, but he had a reason for why he did everything, including making the team skate right after a game with Norway. The way the training is shown in the movie really illustrates how hard the team worked. As the movie progresses, bits of more games are shown. I didn't understand a lot of it since I don't know anything about hockey, but the games, especially the one against the Soviets, were exciting to watch and very entertaining.
Herb receives the most attention and stands out more. He is a successful college hockey coach when he is picked to coach the US Olympic hockey team. He does whatever he thinks is necessary to make the team stronger, even if it makes him look like a huge jerk. He has a reason for everything he does. He is an interesting man and I think Kurt Russell does a really good job with the part. Herb's wife Patty is shown to be supportive, but also aggravated at times by her husband. Patricia Clarkson handles the part well.
Craig Patrick is Herb's assistant coach. Craig is a bit closer to the players and doesn't always agree with Herb's methods. Noah Emmerich does well with the part. Kenneth Walsh plays Doc Nagobads, the team doctor. Doc also doesn't agree with Herb at times.
The players for the team don't receive as much attention which makes sense since there are so many of them. Some of them are only briefly mentioned by name. That does make it harder to keep track of who is who at times. Only a few of them receive enough attention to stand out. Mike Eruzione ends up becoming the captain the team even though he isn't necessarily the strongest player. Jim Craig, the goalie for the team, is still struggling with his grief after his mother's death. Jack O'Callahan and Rob McClanahan are strong players who stand out a bit more as well.
Patricia Clarkson - Patty Brooks
Noah Emmerich - Craig Patrick
Kurt Russell - Herb Brooks
Kenneth Walsh - Doc Nagobads
Gavin O'Connor - Director
The version of Miracle that I have has two discs. My copy is the widescreen version. I think I remember seeing a full screen version of the movie as well, though I could be wrong about that. The first disc has the movie, a commentary that I haven't listened to, and The Making of Miracle. The featurette has various people involved in the making of the movie talking about the process and certain decisions. The director, Gavin O'Connor, decided to cast men who were hockey players so the skating would look right instead of trying to teach actors how to skate. Some of them never acted before while others had a little bit of acting experience in addition to being hockey players.
The second disc has two more featurettes, one on the sound of the movie and one on turning hockey players into actors. The featurettes are interesting and also include some footage of the filming. The way the games were filmed for the movie is discussed and shown. There are a few outtakes that are somewhat funny. Miracle ESPN Roundtable with Linda Cohn has members of the team talking about their experiences. Kurt Russell also takes part in the talk. The last extra, First Impressions: Herb Brooks With Kurt Russell and The Filmmakers is footage from an early meeting for the movie that included Brooks. He talks about various things connected to the 1980 team, further explaining some of his methods. I thought this was really interesting and helped to share more about him.
Miracle is a well done and very entertaining movie about one of the greatest moments in sports. I think even people who don't like hockey can enjoy the movie. I really enjoy this movie and I'm not sure why it has taken me this long to write a review. I think I got inspired by hearing out the US hockey team has been doing in the Olympics this year.
This review is part of CaptainD's Good Movie EpiGuide 3 Write Off.
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