Projections - Movie Reviews


Starring Kurt Russell, Eddie Cahill, Patricia Clarkson,
Noah Emmerich, Patrick O'Brien Dempsey, Michael Coristine

If you want to be replenished by the importance of the Team USA ice hockey in Lake Placid 's 1980 winter games then Miracle is like a slap shot on goal.

Having Kurt Russell on board as hard-nosed coach Herb Brooks is a nice piece of casting by director Gavin O'Connor and producers Gordon Gray and Mark Ciarci, the latter who worked another sports film, The Rookie.

The opening credits put history in perspective, the Soviet Union had been the gold medalists in hockey from 1964-1976, and America was facing difficult economic conditions, like high interest rates and long gas lines.

From the vantage point of Brooks, a coach for the University of Minnesota , the chance to coach Team USA was something that had deep personal significance for him. He was the final player cut from the last team that defeated the soviets in Squaw Valley in 1960. Russell, who made a strong impression against the turbulent days of Rodney King in Dark Blue as a corrupt policeman, does more than ape the physicality of Brooks, who died last year in an automobile accident and was never able to see principal photography of the film.

There's a fire in the steely gaze of a man who successfully interviews for the 1980 Olympic hockey team coach in Colorado . He is determined to do what it takes to meet the unavoidable daunting task of facing the Soviet Red Army team who've been playing together for fifteen years. Some of the elements, like Brooks' incessant studying of old Soviet contests on film, compares to other recent sports films. Of course, it doesn't bode well for a husband and father of two as his supportive, yet needing wife Patti, the wonderful Patricia Clarkson.

O'Connor, who did quite well in his first big screen, low-budgeted film, Tumbleweeds, effectively portraying tensions between a wayward mother and precocious daughter, spends time bringing out the human drama. The details between the coach and team capture the connection of great opportunities and great moments. Brooks superseded the USOC with his selections and manner of molding the team with conditioning and team chemistry his top priorities. A family slowly evolves after players put off past rivalries and distractions during an exhibition game in Oslo , Norway . Mike Eruzione (Patrick O'Brien Demsey), who becomes the team captain, gets that distinction by reinforcing what Brooks says about the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the one on the back.

Miracle has time for some lighter moments between Brooks and his team, as in a Christmas scene with some gifts for the coach and his assistant, Craig Patrick, acted in a studious, sympathetic manner by Noah Emmerich. A balance of the harsh and heartfelt when it comes to coach and players hits in scenes with Brooks and Jack O'Callahan (Michael Mantenuto), Ralph Cox (Kenneth Mitchell)-the last player to be cut to meet the roster size of 20, and goalie Jim Craig (Eddie Cahill) who's trying to live his late mother's dream. Brooks' psychology for those unknowing of his philosophy begins early on when Craig refuses to take a written “test” handed out to all prospective hockey Olympians.

Reel Sports Solutions Mark Ellis gives the game competition, especially in the medal rounds such a swift, intense look at hockey which is sometimes hard to keep up when you are so close to the action. While Brooks keeps the focus on the Soviets, in spite of being soundly defeated by them less than two weeks before the gold metal round.

Maybe O'Connor doesn't turn out a miracle of a sports movie like Rocky or Hoosiers, but it does gel from the media hunger and crowd chants of “ USA .” Russell's inspired effort to unite college athletes, many from Boston and Minnesota, really affirms the indelible line of Al Michaels' call “Do you believe in miracles,” as his voice calls all the plays from the TV coverage back in the eighties, before there were professional “dream” teams.


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