48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
"You don't have enough talent to win on talent alone...",
This review is from: Miracle (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
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.
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Initial post: Nov 16, 2013 4:18:32 PM PST
Harald A. Smedal says:
Holy cow! Mr. Bernabo's article brought back a ton of memories for me all relating to hockey. I remember the 1960 Olympic team which came to Bowdoin college to practice with us. Sid Watson our coach and the Olympic coach divided us up. Our lines would play with their defense and our defense would play with their lines. As I played defense, I got to wear the Olympic jersey/sweater. Sometime during play one of the Cleary boys(I can't remember which one) came toward me skating like a blur screaming "get the puck, get the puck". I started after it, but by then Billy or Bobby had turned around and was skating at me saying "never mind I got it." Talk about deflating one's puffed-up ego. I went on to fly airplanes for ten years for the US Navy and Pan American World Airways getting laid off from Pan Am when they began losing millions. Wound up in pastoral ministry serving two downeast coastal Maine churches beginning from 1976 for thirty years. In 1980 I tore myself away from my car radio to conduct services for the second time that day at an island church. I wove the progress of the game into my comments and sermon, then excused myself, hurried out to my car and turned on the radio. The game was in the third period . I didn't move until the horn sounded ending the game. Some of the good folks hung around with me missing their planned noontime lunch. What an experience. Thanks for the good memories. Harald
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