A Film Review By The Mike

Starring: Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson, Noah Emmerich
Directed By: Gavin O’Conner

Final Grade:

When I was a young boy, I was proud to be an American. Knowing that I lived in “the land of the free” meant something to me, and Old Glory proudly hung on my bedroom wall. But then I grew up, and the shine started to fade. Life in the US became more about national debts and presidential scandals than anything that meant much. Sure, 9/11 brought a little togetherness, but something still seemed to be missing.

From the images and words in the opening of Miracle, I assume there was a lot more that felt missing leading into the decade in which I was born. Something was needed to bring our nation together. That something came to our people, at least momentarily, in the Winter Olympics of 1980. It was carried to them by a tough-as-nails group of young men and a grizzled coach on an ice rink. The story of the Miracle is indeed one worth telling.

Like most triumphs that deserve to be lauded, the events behind “The Miracle on Ice” are hardly believable. A coach, 20 years removed from his chance at Gold as a player, brings together 20 youngsters who may not be the best individuals, in hopes of building the best possible team. You know where it goes from there. If you’re going to watch Miracle for suspense, you’re going to be disappointed.

This movie needs no suspense to create drama, thanks to the work of an excellent group of actors and some wonderful writing and direction. It’s nothing groundbreaking by any means, but that’s not the point. Director Gavin O’Connor and screenwriter Eric Guggenheim deserve a lot of credit for their work here.

The film’s most powerful emotions come from its cast, every member of which is perfect when the right opportunity is granted them. Numerous close-up shots reveal every grimace, every smile, and every ounce of energy they give. The members of the team, mostly comprised of hockey players turned first-time actors is an excellent group.

As with any film he’s in, the primary reason to love this film is the work of star Kurt Russell. A year removed from the release of his best performance (Dark Blue), he’s back, and as commanding as ever. He becomes Herb Brooks, the legendary coach who tragically died not long before the film was released, giving every speech or personal chat with vigor and power. To call it an Oscar-worthy performance would be absurd, but to call it a near flawless one would be just right.

Sure, there are problems with Miracle. More could have been done with the relationship between Brooks and wife (Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson, who gets little screen time and fewer lines), and the film does tend to dip into cliché, a downfall of nearly every sports film.

But those minor quibbles are excusable. This film is all about heart, and it’s got all of that that it needs. It’s not a Miracle like its events were, but I do know I’ll wake up tomorrow morning with a bit more care for the country I live in, and a future classic still stuck in my mind. Like those that saw these events occur in the early months of 1980, I believe.

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