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Hockey never looked so good

Ann Flies | Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Considering the long history of sports films, new movies in this genre must be extra special in order to catch the eye of weary movie-going audiences. Miracle is special.Miracle is the true story of the 1980 United States Olympic Hockey team. At a time when life amid Cold War fears was looking dismal, the hockey team was not looked upon as a bright spot. The Soviet Union’s long-standing tradition of gold medal victories at the Olympics was unmatched, while the United States was not even regarded as competition. As the movie begins, Coach Herb Brooks, who is played by the film’s only true veteran actor Kurt Russell, defines a new playing technique, determined to make his mark in history.As the plot unfolds, the audience watches the trials the team encounters as the players learn what is involved in becoming a great team. Coach Brooks makes life even more difficult for the players with his rigorous training plan. Viewers are able to connect with the team as they endure grueling practices and then share in their pride as the season progresses.Although the film as a whole is magnificent, a few weak areas stand out. Jim Craig’s (Eddie Cahill) and Brooks’s family dealings are basically the only personal struggles set out in the film, which may be because they are the only two who have a level of acting skill. Those actors playing the athletes are good at the hockey portion of Miracle but sputter through portions that come close to the realm of drama. This is especially evident early in the film where a scene in a pub calling for a heated argument lacks any form of emotion. The lack of acting experience among the team members luckily is not evident when the movie moves to the ice. As the actors’ bios suggest, most of them have some amount of hockey experience, which serves to enhance the quality of the piece during crucial moments. One of the truly outstanding qualities of Miracle is its ability to put the viewer into the action. The movement, energy and excitement of hockey are readily evident; a viewer was heard to comment that, “If you didn’t like hockey before the movie, you will love it after.” In spite of the fact that most viewers already know the outcome of the game, the natural momentum of the storyline keeps the suspense and excitement in place. The movie wisely reaches a crescendo with the Soviet Union game, where great camera placement captures every second of the action. Even those who are not appreciative of the game will find enjoyment in the memorable quotes and prevailing feeling of team unity. Overall, Miracle is an incredible thrill ride echoing past movie favorites such as The Mighty Ducks, but with a more mature and intense twist. Miracle would be good if for the sole reason that it is recounting an iconic piece of American history, but the fast-paced hockey scenes and emotional audience response make it truly great.