The inspiring story of the team that transcended its sport and united a nation with a new feeling of hope. Based on the true story of one of the greatest moments in sports history, the tale captures a time and place where differences could be settled by games and a cold war could be put on ice. In 1980, the United States Ice Hockey team's coach, Herb Brooks, took a ragtag squad of college kids up against the legendary juggernaut from the Soviet Union at the Olympic Games. Despite the long odds, Team USA carried the pride of a nation yearning from a distraction from world events. With the world watching the team rose to the occasion, prompting broadcaster Al Michaels' now famous question, to the millions viewing at home: Do you believe in miracles? Yes! Written by
Sujit R. Varma
The notes for the first film of the Soviets that Coach Brooks is shown watching says, "19 February 1976 Moscow". See more »
At the end of the second period when Johnson scores the goal it doesn't actually go in the net. It visibly passed behind the net from the left side and the puck can clearly be heard hitting the boards. See more »
[opening his Christmas gift - a bullwhip]
It's the gift that keeps on giving.
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A Surprisingly Good Sports Film Lacking Most Cliché
During the 2010 Winter Olympics, NBC broadcast a 30-minute documentary piece on the 1980 US Olympic ice hockey team. While I knew the story of how they beat the Soviets and won the Gold Medal (I had seen it live as a kid), I was expecting some clichéd rhetoric about the team and what they had done, akin to films like "Knute Rockne, All American" (1940) and "Rocky" (1976). I was pleasantly surprised to find that the story was anything but. The coach of that team, Herbert Brooks, was no hackneyed clone of a Knute Rockne or a Vince Limbardo. Instead he was a tight-fisted uncompromising hockey general who distanced himself from his players, more like a Bobby Knight than a Knute. This was not someone with whom teammates would feel comfortable having a beer. Instead, his inspiration to the players came from the other direction, by exposing their weaknesses and in some cases using unfairness and resentment as anchors from which to get the best out of his players. I decided that "Miracle" might be worth a look, especially as a prelude to the US vs Canada in the gold medal round of 2010 Olympic Hockey.
Kurt Russell portrays Herbert Brooks as a lean and mean hockey coach who leaves sentimentality at the front door of the ice hockey rink. From the get-go he informs his players he's not there to be their friend. His goal is to let loose their highest playing potential coupled with the best conditioning among the Olympic hockey players at all costs. At times, he seems to be driving the players too hard well-beyond their comfort zones. Much of the story is the unconventional training techniques he uses to prepare the players for the 1980 Winter Olympics. According to the film, Brooks is relatively new to these techniques which he adopted while studying USSR hockey. His plan is to use the Soviets' techniques against them in the Olympics, which is not just about strategy but also about extreme discipline and an uncompromising tough sensibility akin to the military. One character points out that everything Brooks does has a purpose behind it.
The only short-coming in the script may be the portrayal of Brooks' wife who finds her relationship with her husband compromised, at least according to the film. I wondered if it played out in real life as in the film or if it was fabricated by the screenwriters. Too many sports movies have this sort of relationship with the wife acting as the balance between the obsessive coach and the needs of his family. She's been through this before. Why did she marry him in the first place? To be a successful account?
Certainly, most Americans know the outcome of the story, although the sequence of the game between the US and the Soviets is riveting and plays out about as well as the fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed. However, the meat of the story is really about the relationship between Brooks and his players, and the coach's single-minded determination to create the best Olympic team possible. By putting a certain amount of anger and determination into their hearts and heads, Brooks brings out the best in them, much like a sergeant in boot camp. The speech before the Americans played the Soviets is one of the better scenes of its type, leaving behind the "do it for the Gipper" silliness that has become a sports cliché. The only moment which was lacking in the film was the speech before the very final game when the US played Finland after the Soviets. In that speech, apparently Brooks told his team that if they didn't win, they would go to their graves regretting the missed opportunity. I would have liked to have seen Russell give that speech as well. Apparently Herb Brooks died before the principal shooting of this film had ended, and the film is dedicated to him. Just about as fitting a tribute as a coach could ask for.
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