Kill Those Commies

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

Miracle is the kind of movie your dad would like. It’s got plenty of sports, some nice moments of male bonding, Kurt Russell and an ending he already knows. He’s not going to be surprised and he’s going to get some hockey action. All in all, a win for him.

But will you like it?

Surprisingly enough, you probably will. It’s not the greatest movie ever, but it’s well made.

Miracle tells the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic ice hockey team that overcame adversity (mostly the fact that they shouldn’t have been very good) to defeat the powerful Soviets, win the gold medal, rejuvenate the spirit of America and start the country on the path to winning the Cold War. Whether the win actually accomplished all of these things is open to debate, but Miracle sure wants you to think all of these things resulted from the U.S. beating the Soviets.

The movie opens with a long montage that blames roughly the entire decade of the 1970s for sending America into cultural decline. We see brief moments of Vietnam and Watergate, as well as brief moments of things like Coneheads sketches. I kept expecting to see Match Game ’78 in there somewhere. The movie also does a good job of making the Soviets an impersonal force devoid of any humanity. None of them are allowed to become characters, even to the point of being ridiculously evil villains. This hurts the film in the long run.

However, director Gavin O’Connor does a good job of making hockey cinematic. We’re never at a loss to know what’s going on. This is a difficult thing in hockey, which is a sport where the action never stops; the game and practice sequences are thrilling. The real-life hockey players cast as the hockey players in the movie help the veracity since they know what they’re doing.

They also work well with Kurt Russell (as famed coach Herb Brooks) and the other actors cast in vital parts. These real-life athletes contribute to the ensemble. By the end of the film, you completely buy all these young men as a team. Russell is superb as their coach, as is Noah Emmerich as his assistant. Patricia Clarkson brings a usually thankless role (coach’s wife) to life in her few scenes.

Is Miracle a great film? No. But you are going to be hard-pressed to find a better film released in the doldrums of early winter.

3.5 stars (out of 5)