Miracle (2004) / Drama

MPAA Rated: PG for mild language
Running Time: 135 min.

Cast: Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson, Noah Emmerich, Sean McCann, Kenneth Welsh, Eddie Cahill, Patrick O'Brien Demsey, Michael Mantenuto, Nathan West, Kenneth Mitchell       
Director:
Gavin O'Conner
Screenplay: Eric Guggenheim
Review published February 9, 2004

Long considered one of the greatest moments in sports for the United States, Miracle is a dramatization of the true life events of the United States Winter Olympic hockey team, and its quest to gain the gold medal.  Vast underdogs to the Soviet team, who dominated the sport for two decades, no one figured that the team would have a chance to even make the medal rounds, much less beat the best of the best.  Minnesota coach Herb Brooks (Russell, Dark Blue) is brought in, and under controversial circumstances, he puts together a team of young men, average age of 21, to try to match up against the Russian juggernaut.

It's another inspirational Disney film, the sort of "David vs. Goliath" film they love to make, and of course, it's safe for family viewing.  It's probably not really the emotionally charged crowd-pleaser it tries to be, but as a sports docudrama, it does a respectable job in creating a good sense of the atmosphere of the times, and the importance of the game to a country that suffered through Watergate, Vietnam, the Iranian hostage crisis, unbelievable inflation, gas shortages, and the Cold War.  America needed something to feel good about again, and for one solitary night, people were proud to be Americans again.

The writing by first-time screenwriter Guggenheim is adequate, as is the direction by Gavin O'Conner (Tumbleweeds) -- neither are stellar, but they get the job done in workmanlike fashion.  The real reason why Miracle manages to raise itself above made for TV fare comes from the solid acting, with Russell leading the way with one of the better performances in his career, as Brooks, the sometimes unlikable coach of few words, but a great deal of desire.  It won't blow you away Rocky-style, and the outcome is well known to almost anyone who was alive at the time, but it is still an interesting and entertaining film to view nonetheless.

Hockey fans should also have a reason to rejoice, as Miracle is one of the best to cover the sport with respect, instead of fodder for lowbrow comedy.  However, you don't have to be a hockey fan to enjoy this film -- but it does help to be an American.

Qwipster's rating:

2004 Vince Leo