ninth symphony films - movie reviews

MIRACLE (2004)

DIRECTOR  -  gavin o'conner

RATED  -  pg

GENRE  -  biography

LENGTH  -  135 minutes

RELEASED  -  6 february 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  walt disney pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  miracle

miracle - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from miracle at

buy the dvd from miracle at

tells the true story of herb brooks, the player-turned-coach who led the 1980 u.s. olympic hockey team to victory over the seemingly invincible russian squad.

herb brooks, the man upon whom kurt russell's character is based, died in a car accident before the completion of this film.


picture from miracle

picture from miracle

picture from miracle

picture from miracle


three out of four possible stars

Everyone who walked into the theater before viewing 1997's Titanic knew what was going to happen to the ship. And since the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team performed their "miracle" just a little over two decades ago, it's safe to say that most of this film's audiences will know the outcome of the film before the beginning credits even start. But in taking the classic "underdog" sports story to the screen, lead star Kurt Russell and his long-haired costars have taken a near legendary sports event and turned it into an engaging and exciting film. It would be interesting to find out just how much of the story on the screen occurred in real life almost twenty-five years ago.

In creating the temperament of the film, the filmmakers open the movie with a sequence of sound-bites, news stories, and talking heads that bring the audience back to the downtrodden atmosphere permeating much of the country in 1980 by showing events like President Nixon's resignation, the consequences of the Vietnam War, the gas shortage, and the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant incident. Having exited the 1960's on a turbulent note, Americans underwent a massive change in attitude where everyone felt the pressure of the Cold War. And since the Cold War is fast becoming a distant memory in the minds of today's "MTV" generation, easing the audience into the "feeling" of the late 1970's was a good first step for the filmmakers.

The casting of the film apparently drew a very large group of actors to the casting calls (over 4000 men auditioned for just twenty roles), but beyond the smooth hair-dressing and costuming (the late 70's was such a strange area concerning clothing and hair), each of the actors was well chosen. In the lead role, Kurt Russell reminds the audience that he can indeed hold your attention (his fans were probably beginning to forget his dramatic abilities) and does justice to the real-life man upon whom his character is based, "Coach Herb Brooks." Perhaps this role will galvanize his career as did 2002's The Rookie for Dennis Quaid.

Several actors in the supporting roles of the hockey team players are newcomers to the screen and though the film doesn't belong to any one player (and though the screenwriters were not able to include the stories of all the players), there is still a proper amount of character development sprinkled throughout the film, allowing audience members to find sympathy in and root for the team as a whole. Canadian Kenneth Mitchell (playing Ralph Cox) and Noah Emmerich (playing assistant coach Craig Patrick) have stand-out roles as does the always impressive Patricia Clarkson, who plays Brooks' wife.

The performances throughout the film really are without fault and if not for the realistic portrayals of these real-life characters, the story might not have been as gripping. Though some of the best sequences in the film are the requisite game scenes where a mixture of hand-held work, standard broadcast camera shots, and on-ice shots (where the camera person seems to be sliding across the ice virtually on the shoulder of any one of the hockey players. The way that some filmmakers are able to pull gritty realism out of a subject like war (take Saving Private Ryan, for example), the makers of Miracle are able to slam the viewer closer than the view of just "spectator." Whenever a player is slammed against the wall by another, drops to the ice after being rammed into, or glides down the ice at full speed, the camera is a mere inches away from the action.

Sportscaster Al Michaels' yell, "do you believe in miracles!" is a well-known phrase and in a masterful bit of editing, choreography, and cinematography, the final sequence covering the famous USSR versus USA game is compacted into about fifteen minutes, continuously narrated by Michaels' actual commentary. The filmmakers back away from their prior habit of highlighting specific players and their personal stories and attempt to create the look and feel of the actual game down to the exact game plays. Members of the audience who witnessed the actual game will probably find themselves transported back in time via this very well-done finale, with the benefit of the intimate on-ice shots that get the viewer practically on top of the action.

Showing a time when Americans as a whole were questioning the economics, safety, and strength of their country, this film seems a timely response to current events. And since underdog sports stories sell so well to audiences, this film should appeal to a wide demographic, though it will probably play best with American audiences. Which isn't a surprise given the giant crowds who chant, "U.S.A.," over and over again during various game sequences. But though the patriotism might come on strong at times, the actors nevertheless give strong performances about an inspiring story that today's generation will find exciting. Excellent production values and fantastic cinematography add to the picture greatly, with moving performances making it easy to appreciate an unabashedly sentimental story.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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