February 12, 2004


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I love hockey. I love movies. So it just makes sense that I would love hockey movies, including this movie. And since there were no home games last weekend, I had to get my hockey fix elsewhere, provided conveniently in the form of this movie.

Based on the true story of the American men’s stunning 1980 Olympic victory over the USSR’s indomitable Red Squad, this movie goes beyond just hockey to bring in the real pulse of the time, what was happening in the world that made this seemingly simple game so pivotal a moment to Americans. Here we see the Cold War raging in all its fierceness, paranoia everywhere, the very seams of the fabric of American life threatening to tear. Cars lined up at gas pumps, soaring interest rates, and the Iranian hostage crisis are just a few of the main issues of the time that fuel the public’s need to believe in something. Enter this hockey team full of college kids, unseasoned, full of raw talent, bursting with new life and energy that the public eagerly absorbed. At a time when they needed to be, these kids were heroes, and that’s what this movie is about; the heroic in the individual, the underdog overcoming impossible odds to succeed, the American Dream.

When I see a hockey movie, I want to see the players worked to the point of exhaustion, physical endurance put to the test. I want to see champions executing complex and impressive feats of athleticism on skates. And I was rewarded with all of these things. A large part of the movie’s authenticity comes in the casting, as all the actors hired for this film had a large amount of experience in hockey. These men we see pushed to their limits are actually doing just that, and the credibility conveyed by doing away with stuntmen brings the believability of this movie a long way.

Kurt Russell is, honestly, the best thing in this film. Playing the late coach Herb Brooks, who died in a car accident after principal photography of the movie was finished, Russell is simply fantastic. Aside from the great performance he puts in as a man haunted by lost opportunities in youth, as a coach who gives his team a chance at greatness, and as a loving husband committed to his family, he also has some of the most horrendous hair I’ve ever witnessed in cinema. It’s so bad, it’s good. Plus, he really gets the whole mid-Western accent thing down cold.

As far as hockey movies go, this is really a great film, despite being produced by Disney. They managed to keep the really sappy scenes to a minimum while still showcasing some really excellent male bonding. Miracle totally left the Mighty Ducks in the dust, but it still isn’t quite on par with Slapshot. I mean, Kurt Russell is great, but he’s no Paul Newman. Overall, this is a good quality, patriotic hockey flick that made even me (a Canadian) want to start chanting “U-S-A.” And, well, that’s not something that happens very often.

Archived article by Sue Karp