Waffling About Sports Films: Miracle

“Do you believe in miracles?”

        – Al Michaels

The Introduction

*creeks open half-hanging door, shouts ‘hello’ to hear it echo around the empty room, steps aside to let the bats dash out of said front door*

I know, I know. I’ve been bad, and to be honest, if it wasn’t for the next door neighbour Benji, I’m sure the wrecking ball would have turned up and knocked this place down. To help, I’ve decided to actually do something about this place, to help it get back on its feet. Basically I’m thinking spiral staircases, a massive TV and maybe even a shed for the non-sport related stuff to go.

So, the start of a new feature that has been inspired (or stolen, depending on how you prefer to describe it) by a few blogs out there, notably the lovely mrschristine.com and toata.co.uk. Now only recently, I remembered I have access to Sky Go, and while it allows me to watch the Super League or IndyCar from my own bed, you can amazingly, also watch films that have been on the movie service.

But to be different, and because we like sport around here, I’ve decided to limit myself to sport only films. At least to look at. A warning though, I’m new to this game, so some spoilers may creep in. Here goes nothing.

The General Information

Released in 2004, notably one year after the lead character, Herb Brooks, died in a car accident. Directed by Gavin O’Connor and written by Eric Guggenheim. Leading roles featured Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks, Noah Emmerich as assistant GM Craig Patrick, and everyone’s favourite New York detective Eddie Cahill as keeper Jim Craig.

The Background

For those who aren’t aware of arguably the greatest hockey match of all time, the ‘Miracle on Ice’ was the medal round game between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics. The set up is simple, the US were the massive (by massive, think that David probably had better odds on beating Goliath than the US did beating the Soviets) underdogs, while the Soviet Union destroyed anything that even thought about standing in their way.

But in one of sports great upsets, amazingly even better than Ronnie Radford’s goal against Newcastle United that we see every single time the FA Cup Third Round comes around, the US won 4-3, and proceeded to win gold with a 4-2 defeat of Finland in the final round-robin fixture.

The Film

There is a reason Miracle is the first on the list, aside from the fact of some nice BBC2 scheduling, but because I really do love the story behind the game. For once, you want to see the Americans win. They have this uncanny team bond that is strengthened as the training and the film goes on, led by Herb Brooks and his ‘herbies’ (variants of which I’ve been forced to endure throughout my, short, spell as a goalkeeper), and the fact that the players want to play for their country, something very rare these days.

What makes the movie is Kurt Russell, he is brilliant. The many faces of Herb Brooks are perfectly portrayed, from the hard working hockey coach to the never at home family man. His trails in terms of keeping his team happy and his family happy at the same time, at times overstepping the mark so he can achieve his dream. Determination leads to some pretty unsympathetic and painful moments, the aftermath of a draw to Norway is never-ending. And that isn’t put in a bad way, it shows how far Brooks is willing to go to get his win over the Soviet Union. Certainly shown by the discontent he airs over the Soviets, their threats to pull out, their actions in foreign affairs. Ah what the heck, boo you USSR, boo (speaking of which, Soviet stereotyping at its best, and this film wasn’t even made during the Cold War).

Miracle has a large cast, it needs to be considering the 20 man roster for the 1980 Olympics. They all do an OK job, I feel the relationship between Jim Craig and his father could have been expanded on, as could the rivalry between Rob McClanahan and Jack O’Callahan (their surnames being, eerily, similar), but if you focus on Brooks’ strive for that one moment of glory, then you can’t go wrong.

The Verdict

Sure it’s got the traditional stereotypes and cliches, but for the one of the greatest sporting moments of all time, it does a pretty damn good job of recreating it. And while the irony of the USA beating the Soviets using Soviet tactics during the Cold War is pretty brilliant, Miracle makes for a good underdog story.

4/5.

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Posted on February 14, 2012, in Waffling About Sports Films and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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