As the Cold War fades into memory, it is hard to explain the on-going, almost mystical fascination with The Miracle on Ice; the defeat of the vaunted Soviets by a bunch of unknown American college kids. Yes, national pride plays a big role, and more generally everyone loves an underdog. But I think what has really made this event such a cultural touchstone is the pure joy that surrounded it. Across the nation, and the world, for a myriad of reasons, but distilled and purified in the players and coaches who pursued their dream not for fame and fortune, but because the only dreams worth chasing are the hard ones.
"Miracle" captures this spirit down to the smallest nuance; in a day and age when you are as likely to read about athletes in the police blotter as the sports page, it is refreshing to watch people play for the pure joy of sport and love of the game. The ability to capture this love of the game was made possible by the fact that every single one of the actors portraying a hockey player was first and foremost an actual hockey player. That's not to say they can't act, but they sought out the opportunity because they have scored Eruzione's game winning goal a thousand times on a rink or pond or even on asphalt and they wanted an opportunity to tap into a little bit of that magic. They didn't audition for "Miracle", they tried out for it, and once they had the job, they went to training camp to prepare for filming. This attention to detail comes through in spades; I know hockey, but you don't have to be an expert to realize these guys are in great shape and have been on the receiving end of a check more than once.
In contrast to these raw and unseasoned actors stands Kurt Russell, a Hollywood veteran (and admittedly a very big hockey fan). His portrayal of Herb Brooks is dead on; from the voice and mannerisms down to the single minded determination to beat the best team in the world. Moreover, his punishing conditioning regimen and mind-bending schemes are accurately portrayed without bogging down in details that would likely bore even dedicated fans. The supporting cast is likewise strong, and wisely limited in large part to just Brooks' wife and assistants. This focus mirrors the way Brooks lived the game and minimizes distractions.
So the film has real hockey players and fine actors in all the key roles but the most daunting task for the director still remained: how to portray a game where the outcome is know when the NHL hasn't found an entirely effective view for live games. The answer was to use as many ice level shots as possible, which serves a twofold purpose. The first is that it is much easier to follow the puck when it is the focus of the shot, and at the same time, when a hit or injury is the key part of the scene, the puck isn't a distraction. The other reason this approach is successful is because this player's eye view of the ice injects a sense of urgency that makes victory seem in doubt even when it is a known factor. A corollary to this approach is in the narrative of the game with the Soviets; the director wisely chose not to reinvent the wheel and used Al Michael's definitive call, which includes key commentary from Ken Dryden which can be informative for the non-hockey fan.
In the end, what this all adds up to is the perfect encapsulation of the joy I referenced above. The cold hard fact is that we are unlikely to ever see such joy in sport again, as professionals have come to dominate Olympic team sports and high schoolers join the pro ranks as soon as they graduate and middle schoolers go to strength and conditioning camps under relentless pressure from their parents. What "Miracle" portrays is a joy born of a love of competition, a love of sport and a love of teammates that has become all too rare. That's not to say that this movie only portrays sunshine and roses, but the ultimate goal transcended any one individual. Some of the best scenes in the movie have nothing to do with hockey, but rather the camaraderie that comes from sharing simple things with good friends.
Superb in its portrayal of perhaps the greatest sporting event of all time in every aspect - from acting to wardrobe to the game on the ice, "Miracle" is an absolute joy to watch. It wisely frames the geo-political import of the game and then sets it aside, focusing instead on the beauty of sport and the satisfaction of hard earned accomplishments.
The first hockey games I ever watched were during the 1980 Winter Olympics and I know I was not alone in that respect. It took a while to understand what a blue line had to do with icing the puck and I have never gotten past the idea of what basketball would be like if it was played the same way as hockey (you are allowed to foul the guy with the puck/ball). But I remember watching the games the U.S. Hockey Team played against the Soviet Union and Finland. How big was the miracle that Al Michaels proclaimed during the final seconds of the semi-final match against the Soviets? Well, when "Sports Illustrated" came out the next week there was no need for a headline or caption on the cover photo of the U.S. team celebrating.
Knowing what is going to happen in "Miracle" is important because if we did not know that this team is going to win the gold medal then we might suspect the means that coach Herb Brooks (Kirk Russell) is using to achieve that end. Brooks is haunted by the 1960 Winter Olympics, when he was cut from the U.S. team a week before it won the gold medal. It was also the last year the Americans beat the Soviets on the ice and Brooks knows how to pull off the upset against the best hockey team on the planet. All it will take is a team that he handpicks playing the way he wants them to play.
The best part of this film is watching how Brooks does exactly that and then becomes basically a spectator and cheerleader when his team goes out and wins the gold medal. Director Gavin O'Connor hits a bulls eye with the casting of Russell, who should get serious Oscar consideration for his performance. The hard driven coach who puts his sport before his wife and family is something of a cliché, but what matters here is how Brooks' determination and intelligence comes through as he molds his team.
The production also scores because they went out and got hockey players to act instead of trying to fake us out the other way around. The only real professional actor on the team is Eddie Cahill, but he plays goalie Jim Craig. You can put anybody you want behind a mask in goal on the ice (former Edmonton Oilers' goalie Bill Ranford in fact) and because Craig was such high maintenance and high profile he was the one role where you needed to up the acting level. But Michael Mantenuto as Jack O'Callahan, Patrick O'Brien Dempsey as Mike Eruzione, Nathan West as Rob McLanahan, Eric Peter-Kaiser as Mark Johnson, and the other 15 players on the team are playing exactly what they are: hockey players brought together to create a team.
One thing I was surprised about in the film was that there is never an explicitly stated reason why Eruzione was picked as the team captain. Yet in the context of the film I was right in thinking that I knew exactly what Eruzione was going to do that was going to make him stand out as first among his teammates. (You will know what I am talking about when the moment comes).
The fidelity to recreating the moments we remember from the 1980 Olympics was quite impressive. You can check out the added features on this two-disc DVD set to see direct comparisons of the television footage from the actual games with the movie's re-creations as well as the techniques used to give you a dynamic feeling of being on the ice. Of course getting Al Michaels to "call" the games again was a necessity and it is not surprising that they worked in the original version of his famous line that gives the movie its title. You can re-create history but you cannot really improve on it, although this 2004 film does a nice job of trying to accomplish that particular feat. I just wonder if those who know nothing about what happened at Lake Placid in 1980 can appreciate that as much as those of us who do.
I am looking for the right ones". And that is really what this movie is all about: the power of people working together as a team instead of individually. Nowadays, we are tired of seeing superstars in different team sports that think that they are the greatest thing in the world and that their teammates are just the supporting cast. This is true in the US mostly in football and basketball, and in other countries in the word mainly in soccer.
I was born in Uruguay and lived there until the year 2000, and therefore am a big soccer fan. I am tired of seeing the players from my country excel in their European clubs only to see them fail miserably when they play for our country. The reason is that several of them think they are stars when they come to play for Uruguay and neglect to play as a team. They should all get together and give this movie a try!
Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) is the new coach of the US men's hockey team that will compete in the Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid and has a huge task ahead of him. The Soviets dominate the world's ice hockey and US was embarrassed in their last attempt in the Olympiads. But this is not all that Herb has to face in order to succeed. Right from the start he has to fight against the politics surrounding hockey in order to be able to select the players he wants instead of the ones he is supposed to choose. Also, several players carry grudges from their college games and are unwilling to help each other.
The movie revolves around the challenges faced when trying to create an efficient team, the stress of competition and the spillover of work into one's personal life and the strain this causes. Of course, if you like ice hockey you are probably going to enjoy this movie a lot. However, if you do not like or understand the sport, you can still enjoy the storyline. In my case, working in a company that has season tickets for the current champion of the National Hockey League, the Tampa Bay Lightning, it was easy enough to start learning about the sport and loving it before watching this production.
on May 13, 2004
I have to admit, I am laughing out loud at the people that gave this film a bad rating. Not because they didn't like it for whatever reason. Not everyone is expedted to like everything. But if you notice, when they try to say why it wasn't good, they go off on a tangent on something else. They try to deflect from the film itself by making the strangest, most out place comments about a movie. This isn't just about hockey.
One person said: "Too slow for children.". Someone else said: "Herb Brooks was mean". Nahhh, really? Herb, mean?
I don't even think these people should be allowed to have computers. Scary stuff.
Number one, who cares if it's "too slow for children" Put them to bed and get over yourself. Number two, Herb Brooks WAS mean, but in case you missed it every player he ever coached had IMMENSE respect for him because he didn't coach that way to fuel an ego, he did it because it was his style and it worked time and time again. Herb Brooks was a very interesting and complex person and this movie did a nice job of illustrating that.
This film is very close to accurate (only the O'Callhan hit on McClanahn in their first practice was not a factual event in an attempt to further insinuate the hatred between some of the players on the team. The Minnesota and Boston players had quite the rivalry.) and the WAY it was filmed is very impressive.
You really get to see the relationships between the players and the coach develop. You also get great insight inside the personality of Herb Brooks.
This movie is an exact historical chronological layout of Team USA's run for Olympic gold medal. One that they never supposedly had a chance at.
I think the real test of this film is, the game and the story is so amazing you half expect to go into the theater expecting to be let down because we all know the result. It can't be as good as the real thing, right? This film comes as close as you can imagine. People were standing up in theaters cheering and no one moved from their seat when it was over. That speaks volumes.
The speech Herb gives in the locker room before the game against the Soviets I have read before, and to see it be depicted on film is very moving. I don't cry at films, but I did at this one.
I also saw it 3 times and it was great on all 3 trips.
The one thing I said walking out of the theater was "you don't even have to like hockey to appreciate this".
That's exactly why it's a great film. Only the people who missed the point see it as one dimensional.
It's Kurt Russell's best role to boot.
Also, this movie had the players from that team in awe of how accurate it was. It's been blessed up and down many times over by the members of the team.
Check it out.
on March 15, 2005
I love hockey, and being 20 years old, I had only heard the story of the 1980 US Hockey Team through my parents and I finally saw clips of the game itself on ESPN. The "Miracle on Ice" is considered to be the greatest sports moment of all time.
I purchased Miracle on a whim, because I love sports movies. I watched it that evening, and found myself in the arena, cheering the USA to victory over Russia. And, thank goodness I knew the conclusion, or I may have had a heart attack. :)
This movie stirs your emotions and gives you faith in the United States. I would loved to have seen that game firsthand. When you hear Al Michaels make the famous, "Do you believe in miracles? YES!" call, and see the guys celebrating, it's euphoric.
Disney and Gavin O'Conner made an amazing film. The two-disc set, packed full of special features, takes you inside the making of the movie, and also gives the actual players' perspectives on the experience of playing for Herb Brooks during the 1980 Olympics.
Do you believe in miracles?
After this movie, you will.
1979-1980 was a critical time in U.S. history. In fact, the post-9/11 world in which we now live in many ways resembles the beginning of that fateful decade. The Middle East was in turmoil and terrorists had hijacked a plane with a bunch of American citizens and was holding them hostage. People were afraid of traveling overseas because of the threat and gas shortages and prices caused people to begin carpooling, walking, and biking to work. The Cold War had been going on for almost 35 years without WW III breaking loose, but for the first time since the Cuban Missle Crisis, the Cold War was heating up in a major way and everyone was fearful of world annihilation through a nuclear war. There was talk that the Soviet Union was thinking of boycotting the Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid as a sign of contempt (something President Carter actually forced the U.S. to do during 1980 Summer Games in Moscow) and the nation was on edge.
But in February of 1980, the nation witnessed something that revived everyone's spirits and united people in a way they hadn't been since the middle of Vietnam. During the Semi-final game of the Olympic hockey game, the amatuer U.S. team beat the mighty Soviet powerhouse in a sport they had dominated for more than 20 years. The chanting of "U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A" was first heard during those games and the little team that could went on to win the gold medal by defeating Finnland.
MIRACLE is a movie that recreates those events. The tone, mood, and setting is captured almost perfectly and places the audience right in the midst of what it was like living in America in 1979-1980. Great pains have been taken not only to just physically recreate the events that the members of the U.S. hockey team went through, but the emotions and mentality, too.
The "actors" playing the hockey players in the movie really aren't "actors" but are instead first and foremost real hockey players. This is just one example of many that illustrates the extent the filmmakers went through to get things right.
However, though the movie is thought as being about the 1980 U.S. hockey team, it's really a very personal movie that really isn't about the team, but about the man who led them there, Herb Brooks. Brooks had played on the 1960 team that lost to the Soviets for the first time and since that time had made it his life's ambition to beat the Russians at their own game. The majority of the country had no idea at the time of Brooks' unusual and somewhat controversial training methods and even if they had I don't think most people would have given it much thought. It was Brooks' determination and leadership that formed the team and gave them the opportunity to perform a little "miracle" for all the world to see.
A couple a bits of trivia about the film. The scene in MIRACLE where the players are forced by Brooks to skate back and forth doing drills after their 3-3 tie with Norway was filmed over the course of 3 days, 12 hours a day because the filmmakers wanted the "actors" to look as exhausted as possible. Also, the shot of New York that is seen in the movie with the World Trade Center in the background is actual footage shot for the movie, post 9-11. The Two Towers are seen in the picture were actually digitally recreated, making MIRACLE the first movie to "create" the towers since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
MIRACLE is a movie sure to stir up some sort of emotion from those who were alive to watch the famous moment of sport live. For those who have only read about the event in history books or watched it on ESPN or on a DVD, the effect isn't quite the same and the movie will probably not have as much significance. Nevertheless, the film is well made and makes for a great sports picture.
on November 28, 2004
When watching this movie all I could think about was how amazing this was, to defeat the Soviet's in a game the Soviets dominated for twenty years. Here we have the underdogs of USA vs. the best team in the world hands down; not to mention that USA was just a bunch of college kids that have never played with each other before only against each other. Not only did the kids from team USA have to beat the Soviets and every other team in the Olympics but they also had to become united. Of course it's not that hard to become united, but with a bunch of rival college kids playing as a whole it was. Team USA had to put aside their differences and become a team more importantly to become a family.
I think it was Mark Johnson who said, "We're a family" as they were leaving for the Olympic Games in lake placid. And that's exactly what they had become. When you are on a hockey team you become so close to the guys you are with it's amazing. The best feeling in the world is being in that locker room with those guys and knowing when you step on that ice they are right with you. It's a bond no one can ever take from you. The movie depicted this so well that I was floored when watching how close every player was with each other. If you notice the way they acted when the players first practiced: O.C and Rob got into a fight over what had happened in the past. Later in the movie you notice the camaraderie especially on Christmas when the team goes to the doc's house for a team party.
Kurt Russell also did an outstanding job playing the part of Herb Brooks. From the way he talked right down to the style of coach he was. It was amazing to see the way Herb coached from the inside of the locker room. All I knew was what was said about him in the past. Now we went inside of Herb Brooks and really understood him as not just the coach that beat the Soviets but as a man and his passion for the game.
The other interesting part of the movie was that all the players actually had to work very hard to imitate the plays. Every game is almost the mirror image of what really happened. The directors and players broke down every move and goal and worked on it endlessly to make the perfect miracle on ice.
The way the players on Team USA showed their emotions made me really believe I was watching the real miracle. From the way loved the game to playing the game with all their heart. Herb Brooks told Rob Mclanahan in the game vs. Sweden that "a bruise on the leg is a hell of a long way from the heart" and this changed the attitude of not just Rob but they rest of team USA.
"Do you believe in Miracles?" If not then you have never seen this spectacular movie.
In 1980, at the Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, NY, the American men's ice hockey team, comprised of young college players, took on the best ice hockey team in the world, the Soviet Union's, and won. The U.S. men's team went on to win Olympic Gold that year, for the first time since 1960. I remember watching that game. I wasn't a fan of ice hockey, but neither were most of the viewers glued to their television sets. Only someone living in isolation could have been unaware of the U.S. men's hockey team's unexpected performance at the Olympic Games that year. They had earned a spot in the medal round, against the Soviet Union. This was just as the Cold War was heating up. The U.S.S.R. had invaded Afghanistan. Americans were being held hostage in Iran. There was a feeling of national malaise. A young hockey team with more heart than experience had become unlikely heroes, at least in the minds and hearts of Americans. Even so, no one expected them to beat the Soviet Union. We only hoped they would put up a good fight. But win they did, in one of the most memorable televised sporting events ever. "Miracle" is a dramatization of that team's journey to the Olympic games and it's triumphant conclusion twenty-four years ago. I wonder what took Hollywood so long.
Coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) is the hero of the story. He had coached the University of Minnesota Men's Ice Hockey team to 3 NCAA championships when he was hired to coach the U.S. Olympic team. He proposed to employ a hybrid of the Soviet and Canadian styles of play, and to rely on teamwork instead of individual talent. The U.S. team had nothing to lose after several dismal Olympic performances, so they hired him. He spent only one day assembling the right players. And he trained them longer and harder than seemed reasonable to accomplish what seemed unreasonable: to win.
"Miracle" is shot in the color palette, and to some degree the style, of 1970s cinema, which gives the film a nice period air. The climactic hockey game, however, employs more modern cinematographic and editing techniques, which help make it exciting. "Miracle" spends a lot of time on that game, and director Gavin O'Conner, cinematographer Dan Stoloff, and editor John Gilroy deserve praise for making it suspenseful, even for those of us who remember the real thing. Kurt Russell splendidly transforms himself into a middle-aged, stoic, stubborn and very determined Coach Brooks. Patricia Clarkson and Noah Emmerich turn in very nice supporting performances as Brooks' wife Patti and the team's assistant coach Craig Patrick, respectively. There is an awful lot of training footage in this film, some of which should have been cut to trim some length off of "Miracle"'s slightly bloated two hours and ten minutes. But this is still a nice film. The first half is a little sluggish, although informative. The pacing improves in the second half, and the final hockey game exhibits a lot of skill and delivers a lot of excitement.
on August 12, 2004
We watched this movie at my brothers over the weekend - what a great "feel good" movie. It's the true story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team defeating the unstoppable Soviet Union. It wasn't so much about winning the Olympics ... it was about the U.S. beating the Soviets. Kurt Russell portrays Coach Herb Brooks and is excellent. He plays Brooks in an understated and solid manner (and he's got some really spiffy '80s outfits too ... check out the plaid pants!)- and does a good job of keeping you interested in how he's going to turn this group of kids into an Olympic-Gold-Worthy hockey team.
This is not a hockey movie. This is a story about having dreams and giving 110%, not leaving anything on the table, and going for a goal with everything you've got. Yes - everyone before you has failed - yes everyone is expecting you to fail. You still go for it.
And then ... This is a hockey movie. As a hockey fan, I thoroughly enjoyed all the game scenes. I can't imagine what it would have been like to watch the actual game on TV in 1980! I'd recommend this movie to anybody (especially hockey fans) and there's no foul language, so it's good for the whole family.
Go Team Go!
A few favorite parts ...
For weeks, Herb asks each player who they play for ... and they would all respond their college team names. Finally, one night after a grueling post-game "psych-work-out" ... they get it. And when he asks who do they play for ... USA! They're finally getting to be a TEAM.
Brooks: "Great moments are born from great opportunity."
Brooks: "When you pull on that jersey, the name on the front is a hell of alot more important than the one on the back."
Brooks: "Tonight, *we* are the greatest hockey team in the world.
This is your time! Now go out there and take it!"
Al Michaels: "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"
on April 20, 2004
To Nemo the Clown Fish, your review is revolting. I was there when it happened. As a young amature hockey player from Minnesota, I can only say how fortunate I am. Prior to the 1980 Olympics, I had the privledge of being on the ice with Bob Sutter and Ken Morrow. They came down and practiced with us. As a 12 year old kid at the time, these guys were bigger to me than the NHL. Herb Brooks took a group of college kids to the Olympics to beat the Russian national team, mind you, a professional team. Oh, back to the movie. A great hockey film, a breath of fresh air after Slap Shot II. The movie not only shows you the highs of being on a great team, but all the hard work and dedication it takes to get there. No actor alive today could have pulled of the stellar performance of Kurt Russell. Hat's off to Disney, I give this 6 stars. And to Nemo the Clown Fish, I guess the announcer's words "Do you belive in miracles" at the end of the final game, your answer was NO. Some day you will grow up and see that life is much more important than a cartoon.