I can say right off that I am not a sports aficionado-I hate
sports. I hate watching them on TV; I hate listening to people talk
sports; I hate video games based on a certain sport; and I really
hate how some relatively normal people turn into senseless
fist-pumping maniacs at the name of their favorite team or player.
The Olympics, however, has been about something different. While
today we see professional players on the U.S. teams, in the 1980
Winter Olympics, which is commemorated in Miracle, a movie
based on the true story of the 1980 U.S. hockey team. You
didn’t see overpaid, ego-bloated professional players in 1980;
instead, you saw real people who were out to accomplish a once in a
lifetime dream, against seemingly impossible odds.
Fortunately, you don’t need to like sports to appreciate
Miracle, which follows head coach Herb Brooks, played by an
icy Kurt Russell, as he leads the underdog U.S. hockey team to gold
victory after defeating the Soviet Union-a win deemed the “Miracle
on Ice.” The Soviet Union won the prior four gold medals for hockey
up until 1980, and the U.S. had not won a game against the Soviet
Union in 20 years. However, Brooks was able to take his amateur
players and do what many thought was unthinkable-turn them into the
world’s best team in seven months-thereby, having a stab at the top
U.S. Cold War rival.
What Miracle does best is to capture what 1980 was
like-what the U.S. was going through, what events were affecting us
most, and why a simple hockey game mattered so much. The hockey
game, as Brooks realizes, is more than just a hockey game. At a
time deep into the Cold War, when the U.S. Embassy was held hostage
in Iran, the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan, and the Presidency
was freshly demoralized by the Watergate scandal, the game gave
America the chance to turn to something else, and come behind to
defeat their foes and their worries in a different arena.
Russell is the real star of Miracle. While the audience
of today knows the U.S. wins the game, we still feel the hope and
the determination Russell gives Brooks as if we were right along
with him, feeling the uncertainty and the weight of being up
against something large. The hockey team is played by actual hockey
players, and although they manage to captivate, it was hard to
distinguish among them, in fact, I’m not even sure who makes the
winning goal in the big game against the U.S.S.R.
It may very well be that Miracle cannot be judged by the
same standards as most films. It feels more like a made-for-TV
movie than a full-fledged film, and you may feel like you’ve
watched a PBS documentary more than Kurt Russell. Perhaps this
exemplifies the genuine appeal of Miracle; you can’t not like it,
because it’s a piece of history.