From the studio that brought you THE ROOKIE and REMEMBER THE TITANS comes the movie everybody loves -- MIRACLE. Filled with exhilarating nonstop hockey action and heart-racing suspense, it's the inspiring true story behind... more » one of the greatest moments in sports history ? the 1980 United States ice hockey team's triumphant Olympic victory against the Soviet Union. Kurt Russell gives a brilliant performance as the dynamic and determined coach Herb Brooks, who had an impossible dream -- beat the seemingly unbeatable Soviets at their own game. Starting with a handpicked group of 26 undisciplined kids, Brooks coached them to play like they never played before, and turned 20 of them into a team that believed they could achieve the unachievable -- and in the process, united a nation with a new feeling of hope.« less
Reviewed July 4, 2016
Kurt Russell / Patricia Clarkson / Noah Emmerich
Rating - Overall 8 out of 10 / Acting 7 out of 10 / Story 8 out of 10 / Spectacle 6 out of 10
A very good movie. I don’t care if every beat is predictable from the start. It still plays well and tugs at the heart strings while making you believe that anything can be achieved with the right amount of work and belief. On top of all that it’s based on a true story, one that I remember quite well myself. It truly was a miracle for them to win that gold medal and this movie captures the journey as perfectly as possible.
What makes a good sports movie? There are a number of qualities besides that of simply a good story. There always has to be something which resonates with the audience in an out of the ordinary way. That “something” is sometimes hard to define, as is the case with Rocky or The Legend of Bagger Vance. Both of those movies were very powerful sports movies which resonated with audiences in a unique way. Another was “Remember the TItans”, which used a tried and true technique for enhancing the story by making it socially relevant for a particular subject or period of history. In that particular case it was racism and the segregation/integration issue which was taking place in the background of the movie and helped to illuminate the theme of coming together as a team. (Rhyming not intentional!)
This movie uses a similar technique when it comes to the time period of the cold war. And it works very well. After President Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence” speech, the country was beset by a general malaise. Gas lines, economic uncertainty and the ever hanging Damocles’ sword of the cold war hanging over everyone’s head contributed to making the country fearful and depressive. If we were a patient it would have been time for the Prozac. This period and mood is captured well. The first of the movie plays numerous clips relevant to the era and then later throughout the movie several of these are elaborated on, especially the hostage situation in Iran.
These details add depth and breadth to an otherwise good sports story. The characters themselves are authentic (as best we can know) and compelling. Eruzione serves as a focal point that gives the audience a character to latch onto along with Coach Brooks, as played by Kurt Russell. There is one point where after losing in an exhibition match, the team is made to “skate sprints” over and over until finally, after time has stretched into the next morning, Eruzione yells out his name and where he is from and Brooks yells back “Who do you play for?” His reply? “I play for the United States of America!” Powerful moment that resonates emotionally. At least it did for me.
The performances were all very good. With a sports movie you take for granted that some of the characters are going to be one dimensional and that is the case here, but the acting job done by Kurt Russell is superb and he lends to the role a calm professional reserve that is tinged with emotional honesty and depth.
The movie is a great one to watch and for an Independence Day movie it is even better.
Gloria L. (Muveez) from CONCORD, NH Reviewed on 10/16/2010...
2 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
When the actors aren't acting
J. N. Mohlman | Barrington, RI USA | 06/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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.Jake Mohlman."
MIRACLE--Just when America needed one the most
Erik North | San Gabriel, CA USA | 02/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"MIRACLE takes us back to a triumphant moment in American history just when Americans needed one--the miraculous win by the U.S. Olympic hockey squad over the vaunted team from the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York. Framed by the traumas of Vietnam and Watergate that had settled onto our country like a malaise, the film ratchets up things even further by giving us glimpses of the Iranian hostage ordeal and the December 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets.Stepping into the fray is Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell), a veteran hockey coach who as a player came within one step of joining the 1960 U.S. Olympic hockey squad that handed the Soviets their last loss in ice hockey at Squaw Valley. As the film opens, in the summer of 1979, Brooks is given the task of putting a respectable hockey team onto the home ice in upstate New York for the Olympics. For Brooks, however, merely putting a respectable team onto the ice wasn't good enough for him. He wanted the best; and through his relentless drive and his not ingratiating himself to his players, he prodded them to put out nothing short of the best they had in them. The result was that miraculous 4-3 win over the Soviets in the first medal-round game that a few days after that propelled them to a Gold medal via a win over Finland.Russell, never the showiest of actors but nevertheless one of the best, gives a superb performance as Brooks (who was killed in an auto crash shortly after filming was completed), a man who dedicated himself to putting a winning team into the history books and succeeded. As had been the case in THE THING, EXECUTIVE DECISION, TOMBSTONE, and BREAKDOWN, Russell shows us his professionalism by not necessarily being Mr. Nice Guy, but a man who strives to achieve the extraordinary in his players. Patricia Clarkson is good as his wife (in a too brief role), and Noah Emmerich does a good job as Brooks' assistant.The gut-wrenching game between the U.S. and the Soviets is recreated in vivid detail with all the hard hits and chants of "USA! USA!" rumbling throughout. But MIRACLE is, thankfully, not about American jingoism and arrogance. It is about achieving the impossible, which is exactly what all Olympic games are supposed to be about. It is an incredible piece, well worth seeing more than once."
"You don't have enough talent to win on talent alone..."
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 06/30/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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 not looking for the best players...
Sebastian Fernandez | Tampa, Florida United States | 12/01/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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. "
Best Sports Movie Ever
Sebastian Fernandez | 05/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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.Superb.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."