Miracle Review

by Homer Yen (homer_yen AT yahoo DOT com)
February 13th, 2004

"Miracle" - Believe
by Homer Yen
(c) 2004

In the months leading up to the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, the American hockey team was practically written off as a possible medal contender. They had to overcome the cloud of a 20-year losing streak in world hockey competition. They had to provide something great to stir up a country that was embroiled in domestic and international turmoil. And, they had to outplay the highly talented Easter Bloc teams, which had established themselves with increasing dominance.

"Miracle" is a movie whose impact is aided by the fact that it is based on one of the greatest moments that will forever echo among the pantheon of sports contests. That was the semi-final match-up between the younger but hungrier American team and the invincible Soviet team. That was the game that sparked the announcer to exclaim the timeless, "do you believe in miracles?"

Yet, "Miracle" is not so much about the game as it is a loose bio-pic about Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell), the coach of the team. We learn a little about his motivation to coach, stemming from his failure to make the 1960 Olympic team, which did go on to win the gold. Ever since that day, it has been a slow burn, and this may be his chance to realize that dream. He is committed to the cause. However, his coaching style puzzles and even infuriates a few. Of course, his annoying fondness for plaid and his hairstyle, borrowed from the Donald Trump School of Hairstyling, could just about addle anyone. Nonetheless, with a coaching style that mixes a little bit of Vince Lombardi, John Madden, and Bobby Knight, he slowly wins over his squad. There is no doubt that he fully understands the game, how hard to push his team, and what it takes to win.

An inherent weakness in films about teams is that there are always too many characters. And the same is true of "Miracle." This team has 20 players, and most of them have similar builds, similar hairstyles, and similar dreams. With the exception of the goalie (Eddie Cahill), it becomes hard to tell one apart from the other. And once they don their helmets and begin skating furiously down the ice, it's virtually impossible to keep track of who's who.

Thankfully, understanding this film doesn't require us to know the difference between the blue line and a clothesline. The film smartly focuses on the meaning of the game for the coach, the players, and even our country. It is this last aspect that elevates this film beyond standard sports films. This was a time period when America was desperately looking for heroes. Inflation was running rampant while one international crisis erupted after another. The film is peppered with television footage that reflected the current events of the time. It becomes increasingly evident that this Olympic event would become the focal point of our national pride. Indeed, the weight of the country was on these players' shoulders.
Perhaps, a film's potential such as this one is a bit too much of an undertaking for a Disney film. It could have been weightier; it could have been more focused; it could have been more dramatic. Nonetheless, it is still an inspiring family film, successfully managing to open a window that let's us understand why 1980 was a special year in sports.

Grade: B

S: 0 out of 3
L: 0 out of 3
V: 1 out of 3

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