Miracle [retro review]

“When you pull on that jersey, the name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back.”

The Scoop: 2004 PG, directed Gavin O’Connor and starring Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson, Noah Emmerich, and Sean McCann

Tagline: If you believe in yourself, anything can happen.

Summary Capsule: Disney-drenched version of one of the greatest moments in American sports history.

Clare’s Rating: It’s a movie where a guy in a hockey mask plays a pivotal role, but nobody gets slung by their feet head long into a tree in a sleeping bag and nobody gets skewered by a harpoon while napping in a hammock. It’s weird…

Clare’s Review: I think this movie might be really sappy and overly hokey and potentially really lame.

Here’s the problem though. I grew up 45 minutes north of Lake Placid. I spent large sections of my childhood there. I was 6 years old when the US won the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics by, among other things, doing the impossible and beating the USSR in a game that many consider to be one of the most amazing moments in our collective sports history. And I remember very clearly just how INSANE everyone I knew went when it happened.

Since then, I’ve seen the game this movie’s based on a bunch of times. I know a lot of the players by name, like I grew up hearing stories about them as though they’re friends of some invisible older brother I never had. So I knew when I heard about Miracle being made, that I’d have to skip it in theaters and watch it all alone on DVD so I could turn into the big blubbering nostalgic mess I knew this film would reduce me to. And I have to say, I was in no way disappointed. Whether or not it will have anything close to the same effect on anybody else… is irrelevant in a lot of ways actually.

I grew up in hockey country. I knew guys who could skate backwards right around the same age that they learned how to stand upright and walk. I knew guys who lived their whole lives playing hockey with a deeply vetted desire to go to the Olympics some day based solely on having seen the game this movie is based on when they were growing up. So I was really happy to see how hard the filmmakers of Miracle worked to accurately depict a lot of really key elements of these normal, young guys’ experience pursuing an age old, seemingly impossible goal. I grew up feeling like even if I didn’t actually know any of them, in some ways, I absolutely did. Because what they were able to do in one game lived in the hearts and minds of the kids I grew up with who would spend every night after school working tirelessly on speed drills and running formations, hoping one day to come anywhere close to living through a game like the one they’d heard about and watched ceaselessly that happened in their back yard at the Olympics.

So yeah. Miracle has all sorts of inspiring sports speeches and the requisite team building trials. Grueling practices. Male bonding. Funny accents. Swells of music. Slow-motion shots of key plays. Voice over work from announcers so you can follow the action. Bad hair cuts. Injuries and the drama of “will they let him play in the big game or not?!?” more than once. None of it is at all groundbreaking. But I still loved it. I recognize that my judgement isn’t based on reason though. It’s based on my sense of belonging to that game somehow and belonging to where it happened, when it happened.

But I have another sense that, as a country, at the time that it happened, we ALL belonged to that game and those boys who played and won as team USA all belonged to our home town. So maybe there’s a good chance that Miracle will turn you into a nostalgic weeping freak just as readily as it did for me. Who knows? Give it a shot and see what happens.

Coach, drifting off into a senile haze, begins a doodle of the ideal neighborhood street corner

Intermission!

  • Herb Brooks died in a car accident during principal photography of this film. A dedication is made for him before the ending credits.
  • The World Trade center is shown in 1980, a digital recreation of the Twin Towers was used, being the first time they have been created (instead of just filmed) for a movie since the terrorist attacks on the USA of 11 September 2001.
  • The young men chosen to portray the members of Team USA were chosen primarily for their hockey skills due to the intensive nature of the filming; acting ability was secondary. In fact, for most of them, this was their first major film.
  • To rally the crowd of Canadian extras to cheer for the American Olympic team, First Assistant Director ‘Pete Whyte’ held up a Canadian flag and skated around the ice of Vancouver’s PNE Agrodome, waving it wildly.
  • The scene where Herb Brooks makes the team skate back and forth on the ice all night, after their 3-3 tie with Norway, was actually done by the real actors over a span of three days – 12 hours a day. The director wanted the moment to be as realistic as possible.
  • While Al Michaels joined the film to recreate commentary for the games, Gavin O’Connor decided to use the last 10 seconds of Michaels’ original “Do you believe in miracles?” call in the film because he felt he couldn’t ask him to recreate the emotion he experienced at that moment. Thus they cleaned up the recording to make the transition to the authentic call as seamlessly as possible.
  • Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? Yes; among other things, during the closing credits of the film, each actor is shown on screen with the name of the player he portrayed along with a “where are they now” giving information about what the real life players are doing with their lives today.

Groovy Quotes

Herb Brooks: That look like hockey to you? [Pause] To me it looks like two monkeys trying to hump a football.

Craig Patrick: You’re missing the best players.
Herb Brooks: I’m not looking for the best players, Craig, I’m lookin’ for the right ones.

Herb Brooks: You don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone.

Mike Eruzione: Mike Eruzione! Winthrop, Massachusetts!
Herb Brooks: Who do you play for?
Mike Eruzione: I play for the United States of America!

Jim Craig: [reading the roster of players] A lot of guys from Minnesota and Boston.
Jack O’Callahan: Yeah, that’s gonna work.

Patty Brooks: Herb, there’s no disgrace in losing to this team.
Herb Brooks: Yeah, I know.
Patty Brooks: The important thing is, you got this far.
Herb Brooks: The important thing? [Pause] The important thing is that those twenty boys know in twenty years, they didn’t leave anything on the table. They played their hearts out. That’s the important thing.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Rudy
  • The Mighty Ducks
  • The Rookie
  • Friday the 13th
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3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Eunice does Chariots of Fire « Mutant Reviewers From Hell

  2. Pingback: Do You Believe in Miracles? Yes! « Pucks and Puzzle Pieces

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