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Overall Rating

Awesome: 43.56%
Worth A Look44.55%
Average: 7.92%
Pretty Bad: 0.99%
Total Crap: 2.97%

8 reviews, 53 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"Another Bad Year Saved By The Miracle On Ice"
5 stars

There’s a quirky little parallel as Miracle opens between what the U.S. was going through in the period up to 1980 and what moviegoers have been experiencing in the single month leading up to the film’s release. As the splendid opening montage reminds us, the USA was hardly experiencing the most uplifting stretch of history with Vietnam, Watergate and soon world news of hostages and Soviets in Afghanistan. January 2004 has given us You Got Served, My Baby’s Daddy and Torque amongst other atrocities. Two different scales, maybe, but both saved respectively by one of the most wondrous moments in sports history and the aptly titled motion picture which honors it in the way it deserves.

I was only five years old when the underdog Americans of the 1980 Olympic hockey team beat the once-believed unbeatable squad of the Soviet Union. I’ve since read the stories, watched the ESPN documentaries and seen most of the game countless times. What an unbelievable story it truly was. And even though I was alive I never got the chance to live it until now.

Wisely the film puts the emphasis on coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell), who in auditioning for the job lays out the groundwork on how it’s possible to beat the Russians. All-stars are not the answer since they rely on the strength of each individual; not the unit of a team. (There’s a terrific aside later on how the modern era of “dream teams” have robbed us of the element to actually dream.) Brooks, against the wishes of his employers, has already selected the 26 players he wants on the first day of tryouts. (The final roster must consist of 20.)

What we expect from here are the usual collection of underdog sports clichés; rivalries between the players, dissention between coaching styles and attention problems on the homefront. All of them are on display to be sure, but only briefly. One beef between players is just another example of being so close to winning only to have it taken away. Assistant coach (and former player of Brooks) Craig Patrick (Noah Emmerich) doesn’t believe in Brooks’ hard-nosed practice techniques but it’s registered in concerned looks rather than ego-laced shouting matches. Even Mrs. Brooks (Patricia Clarkson) must come to a middle-ground with her husband who has wanted this position for so long. (As if we’re inside Herb’s mindset, I can’t remember a single shot of his children.)

This approach works especially well when it comes to the team itself. Here are 20+ young men each likely with a story of their own to tell about their experience. But this is a team effort. To try and tell just a quarter of their stories would be shifting focus away from the real accomplishment. We know a little bit about star goalie Jim Craig (Eddie Cahill), but it’s simple info to remember just like his name. The others are just faces all coming together for the greater good, some of whom have their dramatic moments like the story of any stirring sports season.

Hockey has always ranked on the low rung of sports that I follow or choose to watch on TV (and that means below Tennis, Soccer and Bowling.) My stance is always the same; hockey is a thrill to watch at an actual game, but boring as sleeping turtles on the tube. What if I was on the actual ice though?

All well and good because some of the camera placement in Miracle is extraordinary, but the entire package is enough for any cinephile to be screaming “GGGGOOOOOOAAAALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!John Gilroy’s editing of the hockey games is something to behold. It’s not flashy and it’s trick-free. In fact, it’s precisely how we wish we could see every hockey game ever played. I was stunned how quickly I shifted in my seat out of excitement when the goalie was pulled to provide extra offensive support during a final minute. That never happens with me even during video game hockey.

But the real coup is the big game. Suffice to say, there has never been as exciting a sports event filmed in the movies as there is on display in Miracle, and I’m including the fight in Rocky and the QB sack in Rudy amongst others. (This is a big “I told you it was exciting” moment for hockey worshippers.) Triple dog amazing (and superbly audacious in its very conception) is to choreograph, film and cut the game around Al Michael’s original 1980 commentary. It’s so flawless that I didn’t even think of it until about halfway through the 20+ minute contest. Every pass, takedown and goal is synched-up. Bravo to director Gavin O’Connor for pulling it off.

Then, let’s shout a triple Bravo to the one-and-only Kurt Russell because no one ever seems to give him a single one. Just last year, several (intelligent) critics tried to sell Dark Blue on the strength of his performance alone which was masterful. With the right role though, Russell brings his own strength to the table and he’s dead-on as Brooks. Even in a scene basked in shadow, Russell gets right to our heart as the General gets his own private moment to feel for his troops’ accomplishment.

If Miracle is released two months earlier in December, its hard-to-say whether or not Seabiscuit would have been as remembered at Oscar time since this is the American sports story it so wanted to be. Both are about America in a time of hardship looking for something to root for; no matter how trivial it may seem in the eyes of those waiting to use the word jingoistic. Just shut up. It was more than a hockey game and Miracle doesn’t Michael Bay-up the flag factor. It’s the Olympics. People wave American flags. It’s a competition. Our team won! It was the “miracle on ice” and the movie is more than aptly titled.

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originally posted: 02/06/04 16:58:40
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User Comments

9/12/15 Anne Well done. You are with the team and coach all the way! 4 stars
10/08/09 Anita totally surprised by Kurt Russel's performance - I had to remind myself it was him. 5 stars
8/31/08 Shaun Wallner The storyline is well made! 5 stars
12/02/06 shagtex just keep yelling USA over and over and stay home 1 stars
12/01/06 SabresFanatic Think David vs Goliath only with the brillant Herb Brooks coaching David to victory! Great 5 stars
11/10/06 Anonymous I think this movie was the best. My mum and dad are like fanatics of too, now :] 5 stars
10/03/05 Angeli Grace One of the unforgettable achievements in the USA sports history. I love it! 5 stars
8/13/05 ES Hockey? I thought this thing was about America dominating the world 2 stars
2/11/05 Jeff Anderson Along with SLAP SHOT, this IS the greatest hockey film of ALL TIME in spirit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
1/07/05 Poopy McPoop Crap I just wanted to be the only one who rated this movie bad...i really liked it tho 1 stars
12/22/04 Landshark The best medicine for wounds of the long-suffering hockey fan 5 stars
11/19/04 Zeus Greatest moment in sports history. Got to love it 5 stars
10/30/04 Lee ausome 5 stars
6/14/04 Spiderfan50 Dream On! It'll be hard to find a better hocky movie! 5 stars
6/01/04 Ryan Absolutely incredible, best hockey movie I've ever seen. Any fan of the sport needs to see 5 stars
6/01/04 maggie saw it three times and bought the dvd which is great 5 stars
5/31/04 prongs inspirational movie 5 stars
5/30/04 Frazier A patriotic sports movie that gives us national pride 5 stars
5/27/04 Matt Great movie for Hockey fans!!! 5 stars
5/19/04 ryan ransom i loved it i got some while watching it!!!!!!!!1 5 stars
4/17/04 Robyn Jamil-Walid Intense;watchable;a little too self-indulgent at times;subplot with wife mostly annoying. 4 stars
3/31/04 Alex This movie is very inspiring. This is a great movie for the whole family. 4 stars
3/30/04 Mike V It was a Disney movie before it was a Disney movie. 5 stars
3/17/04 Chris I like the movie alot but it played it safe a little to much. Still a good see. 4 stars
3/16/04 Mike Sierchio I knew the story intimately and still found myself on the edge of my seat. 5 stars
3/14/04 E-Rock A well done movie. Game sequences are nicely edited, and the story is well-adapted. 4 stars
3/14/04 Jillian Truly something inspirational, shows us how it is a team comes together when its needed 5 stars
3/10/04 Bob Gifford Overachieves typical expectations 5 stars
3/08/04 Edler A very solid, well made, well acted, entertaining, and inspiring movie. 4 stars
3/04/04 m.gallegos Great! I was on the edge of my seat,even though I knew how it would turn out! 5 stars
3/03/04 Sarah I thought it was fantastic, i saw it in the U.S and wasnt sure what 2 expect, but i luvd it 5 stars
3/02/04 Wendranh Slow to build excitement, but worth it. 4 stars
3/01/04 ashley bevis 4 good sex call gary betts on 01303 243289 5 stars
2/22/04 Tom Bonner Great movie! I remember this like it was yesterday and what it for the US. Kurt is perfect! 5 stars
2/21/04 Ross Riley Best Sports Movie Of ALL TIME 5 stars
2/20/04 Koitus Could have used more footage of exhibition loss (7-3); or other Olympic games. 3 stars
2/16/04 Edler Oh yeah! A great sports movie with amazing insight into the dreary and depressing 1970's. 5 stars
2/16/04 Claire Proce excellent movie... we need more of this kind!! 5 stars
2/16/04 Kev Enjoyable, but it lacked meaning and development 3 stars
2/16/04 Bobbie K Entertaining; but would like to have seen more depth to other characters 4 stars
2/15/04 Joker94 Great Film, if you can't see that, you have no heart! 5 stars
2/15/04 ajay I enjoyed this movie... 4 stars
2/10/04 luke good but beating soviets overshadowed winning the gold 4 stars
2/09/04 Jeremy Sexton Loved every minute of it. I would have stayed for another hour of film! 5 stars
2/09/04 Tyler Bauer Great. Top Notch. Fantastic. 5 stars
2/09/04 Vicious Yanks shouldn't make hockey films. 1 stars
2/09/04 Brad good 5 stars
2/08/04 bullit16 I felt like I was 7 again watching the games on TV. Wonderful! 5 stars
2/08/04 david a may generall a good film; uplifting and will get your tear quotient for the week met. 4 stars
2/08/04 Glen Hull Very entertaining 4 stars
2/04/04 Carly O'Conner Loved It 4 stars
2/04/04 Nicole Great movie. Whatever I was expecting, it was better. 4 stars
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  06-Feb-2004 (PG)
  DVD: 18-May-2004



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