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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 Alexandre Paquin

"An exciting film of dubious purpose"
4 stars

Those who expect to find something artistically worthwhile in Gavin O'Connor's "Miracle" are bound to disappointment. As it stands, the film is merely another run-of-the-mill sports movie with a patriotic message -- well done, exciting at times, but questionable.

In the summer of 1979, the United States is actively preparing for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games to be held in Lake Placid. Of particular interest to a country lacking heroes is the ice hockey competition; indeed, the Soviet Union won every Olympic tournament since 1964 and shows no signs of having lost steam since the last leap year. American head coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) is confronted with the necessity of transforming an eclectic group of college hockey players with personal rivalries into a team strong and united enough by February 1980 to defeat the Russians.

Miracle, in many respects, is a Seabiscuit for the winter season. Although the hockey film compares favourably to the equestrian drama, both films have the unfortunate tendency to allegorize more than their context justifiably allows. Seabiscuit's eponymous horse, undersized by racing standards, became "the little horse that could," the Depression-era embodiment of the underdog triumphing against all odds. Adapting that allegory to register on an international scale, Miracle cleverly attempts to use the Cold War as its calling card. Just as Seabiscuit repeatedly relied on segments filmed in the unmistakable Ken Burns documentary style not only for historical relevance but also for sentimental effect, Miracle provides us with a very detailed contextualization according to which, not surprisingly, the entire country seems on the verge of political and economic collapse by the beginning of 1980. Gasoline is scarce, Watergate still casts its shadow over Washington, the Russians invade Afghanistan, religious fundamentalists seize the American embassy in Tehran, and that weakling Carter sits in the Oval Office. Things couldn't get worse, could they?

If only the United States could triumph at Olympic hockey, America would become great again. And if the Soviet Union happened to win once more, the Red Flag might as well be hoisted atop the Capitol building.

So everything hinges on the American hockey players winning their way to the highest step of the podium -- which of course they do; otherwise there would be no movie. Never mind that by the time the flame at Lake Placid was extinguished, the Soviet Union had won 10 gold, six silver, and six bronze medals in comparison to the United States's six gold (the hockey victory, and the other five by speed skater Eric Heiden -- the highlight of the 1980 Olympics), four silver, and two bronze medals. If we extrapolate the allegory to take the whole XIIIth Winter Olympiad into consideration, the Americans might have won the hockey battle, but it looks like Russia just won the Cold War.

From a technical standpoint, the film is executed in the best Hollywood style: slick, brisk, and effective. The hockey game between the two antagonistic countries is treated in the manner most likely to generate excitement among the audience, even though the final outcome is all but a certainty. Kurt Russell keeps Miracle together just as his character keeps his team united, and the rest of the cast also helps make the film credible. Unfortunately, I seriously question the motivations behind the making of the movie. According to some accounts, it was the American team that mostly resorted to dirty tricks during that fateful game, so there is something quite disturbing in the film's desire to present to us heroes with immaculate hockey jerseys for worship.

The film's attempt to achieve this effect is the more disturbing by the fact that the characters' personalities and actions are by no means beyond reproach. Brooks often comes across as a martinet, at one point even endangering the health of his players by holding an intensive training session immediately after a game in Norway. It is only after the team members grandiloquently proclaim that they play for the United States of America that our enlightened coach decides to send them to the showers. The end, it appears, justifies the means, a belief that seems to pervade the political discourse in Washington these days.

Without the Stars and Stripes constantly waving in our faces, Miracle could have been one of the best sports movies in recent history. Here, however, the hockey players are given the demigod treatment usually reserved for life-risking military leaders -- except when they are slated to be the bad guys -- or astronauts; The Right Stuff, among others, was clearly an inspiration. So even though the Americans played the Soviet Union in the semi-finals and would have to go up against the Finnish team (in a game not shown in the film, of course) before winning the gold medal, all with potentially a few teeth, at the most, on the line, Miracle leaves no doubt that statues should be erected to their glory.

Miracle is a good, and often exhilarating, film, certainly above the usual February fare and capable of competing on a qualitative level with some of the previous December's holdovers. But questions remain as to why it was released at this time. In the fall of 2001, it must be remembered, the Bush administration encouraged Hollywood to make more patriotic pictures; it is to be feared that Miracle, a patriotic and conservative film in the not-so-proud tradition of Rocky IV, was made as a result of this encouragement -- and the definitive proof that the line between sports and politics is very blurred indeed.

Still, worth seeing.

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originally posted: 02/29/04 21:30:04
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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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