The story of the Soviet Union's famed Red Army hockey team through the eyes of its players.The story of the Soviet Union's famed Red Army hockey team through the eyes of its players.The story of the Soviet Union's famed Red Army hockey team through the eyes of its players.
- Self - Hockey Commentatoras Self - Hockey Commentator
- (archive footage)
The story of the Soviet Red Army hockey program is one of athletic, social, political and military influences that reflected the larger phenomenon of the Cold War and dictated the fates of those involved. This film contains the kind of interviews that you'd expect from such a documentary and also uses little-seen archival footage, creative modern graphics and skilled editing to tell this story in a very engaging way. The main interviewee is Soviet team captain Viacheslav Fetisov who describes his story as it felt back then and apparently still feels today. Interviews with his wife, his former teammates, a former KGB agent and a few journalists tell of their experiences and give valuable color commentary, but just as revealing is what is NOT said in the documentary. Co-producer, director, writer and interviewer Gabe Polsky is smart enough to turn the camera on early, keep it rolling and edit into the film the honesty and emotion that shows itself in the candid moments and unguarded reactions of his interviewees.
The film's scope covers over four decades of the Soviet Union's hockey program, but focuses mainly on the 1980s, a decade which began with Cold War tensions heightened by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and ended with the rapid decline of the USSR as a unified state. During this period, Fetisov and his teammates absorbed that crushing Olympic defeat, dealt with the changes that followed, rose to new challenges and, eventually, began to consider careers in the NHL, as the Soviet government gradually loosened its strong grip on its players, just as it began losing control of its people and its empire. Polsky uses all the tools at his disposal to illustrate how the Russians ran their program and what that program meant to the country. We see children from all over their massive and diverse nation training, playing and competing within the program. We observe "the best of the best of the best", as one interviewee describes them, transition from hockey players to Russian icons, and cogs in the Soviet Union's propaganda machine. We learn that these elite players were to place hockey above literally everything else in their lives. We come to understand that their purpose was to embody the superiority of their communist system. We get to peek behind the Iron Curtain and contemplate an untold story unlike any other in sports.
"Red Army" doesn't just reveal the untold story of the Soviet Union's ice hockey program, but helps us see that the men involved were more than their government's propaganda puppets, but were human beings with desires for their lives, both common and uncommon problems, and impressive amounts of talent and work ethic. This is a documentary that feels like a drama. The film brings openness to a notoriously closed system and tells a story that most audience members have never thought about, but will be unable to avoid thinking about after seeing this movie. The only weak spot I noticed was the soundbites of the director's amateurish interviewing techniques. That aside, this is a fascinating film which raises the bar for future documentaries of its kind. "A-"
- Apr 4, 2015