Review by Michael Jacobson
Kurt Russell, Noah Emmerich, Eddie Cahill, Michael Mantenuto, Patrick
O’Brien Dempsey, Patricia Clarkson
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Walt Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 136 Minutes
Release Date: May 18, 2004
YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES??…
stage is set during the opening credits…the 70s were a bleak time in
the history of the United States. Watergate
disrupted the presidency. Vietnam
was coming to an end with an entire country trying to sort it all out in
hindsight. The malaise of runaway
inflation, the oil crisis, the hostage situation in Iran…it went on and on.
America crossed her 200th birthday in 1976, but apart from
that brief flicker of patriotism, this was a nation looking for something to
believe in again. What it got was a Miracle.
the Winter Olympics of 1980, the USA shocked the entire world when they pitted a
young team of underdog college boys against the Soviet Union, who had been the
world’s greatest hockey team for two decades, claiming every gold medal from
1960 on and even soundly beating the NHL All-Star team.
Nobody thought America could do it…but then again, nobody thought they
could even come as far as they did, either.
except coach Herb Brooks (Russell), whom we first see saying things to the
Olympic Committee that they don’t want to hear…namely, that the US team will
have to change everything they think they know about the sport if they ever want
to compete with the great teams behind the iron curtain.
And they’ll have to work impossibly hard in a fairly short amount of
anybody else had really wanted the job, Brooks might have been a sports history
footnote. But on the heels of their
shellacking from the Soviets in the previous Olympics, nobody would step up.
Brooks became the man asked to do the impossible and the thankless.
he does exactly that, in his own way and with his own style, instantly stepping
on committee toes by picking his team the first day of a week long tryout.
He knew what he wanted, and had no trouble speaking his mind.
When others question why he sent some of the country’s best amateur
hockey players packing, his answer is simple:
he’s not about individuals. He’s
about putting together a team.
and ruthless, and not always likable to be sure, he puts the hammer down and
begins to drill his young men relentlessly.
His methods don’t always seem to make sense at first, but they always
produce the results he wants, even when he lets two teammates fight it out on
the ice until they’re good and bloodied.
Complacency in an exhibition match gets the team skating hard drills
until long after the lights have gone down in the arena.
When told the caretaker needs to clean the ice to go home, Brooks simply
asks for the keys. “I’ll lock up,” he says.
to Brooks’ style, the film is almost always about the team.
We get to know a few of them by name and face, but the picture isn’t
about individual stories (apart from Brooks himself).
It’s about how twenty young men with different backgrounds and
personalities are molded into one lean, mean, hockey playing team.
film manages to avoid most sports movie clichés, apart from the wife (Clarkson)
who always complains about how much time her husband’s job is taking him away
from her. When it comes time for
the games, even the big ones, they look like real hockey games:
fast, furious, chaotic (the play by play by Al Michaels keeps it all
organized) and about TEAMS rather than individuals.
For as Coach Brooks intones, being a team means that the name on the
FRONT of your jersey is more important than the name on your BACK.
big showdown is easily the most exciting event I’ve ever seen captured in a
sports movie (sorry, Rocky, but you had a good run).
It was so real with the sports announcers, the crowd reaction, the
constant back and forth on the ice, that I was roaring and cheering as though I
were at an actual sporting event. I
bet seeing this movie in a theatre would have been a lot of fun.
whole history of America is founded on the belief that the underdog can make
good. Miracle is an
adrenaline pumping, smart, and thoroughly entertaining movie that will make you
believe it once again.
TRIVIA: Tragically, the real coach
Herb Brooks died in a car accident shortly after principal photography was
wrapped for this movie. As we are
reminded at the end, he didn’t get to see the movie, but he sure lived it.
BONUS TRIVIA: For an excellent
final touch, the end credits list what each member of the team went on to
accomplish after skating off with the gold.
is a mostly solid anamorphic transfer from Disney, with lots of action to test
your home viewing system. The reds
whites and blues look particularly beautiful.
A few darker images here and there lose a bit of definition and seem
slightly artifacted, but not enough to cost serious points; just enough to be
noteworthy. One word, though…as
the sports action scenes make full use of every inch of screen space, be sure to
pick up this widescreen version instead of the pan & scan.
the roar of the crowds to the slam-bang action in the rinks, from the soaring
music to the sounds of blades shearing the ice, this is a 5.1 soundtrack that
will give your home theatre a workout. Dynamic
range is strong, dialogue is clean and clear, and the overall mix is well
balanced, with plenty of smooth crossovers on both front and rear stages.
The subwoofer will echo the sound of your heartbeat as this picture
skates its way to its thrilling conclusion.
two disc set is filled with goodies tailored toward the film fan and sports fan
alike. Disc One features a
making-of featurette, as well as a commentary by director Gavin O’Connor, his
editor and his director of photography.
more featurettes are included on disc two, including one on the real coach Herb
Brooks and actor Kurt Russell, a look at how the young actors were molded into
hockey players for the picture, a look at the sound of the movie, and best of
all, a round table discussion with ESPN’s Linda Cohn featuring Russell and
three of the real stars of the 1980 gold medal winning team.
Rounding out are some outtakes and a THX optimizer.