(Back in 2011, Chris Mead — who wrote under the name Semtex Skittle — reviewed Miracle for this site. At the that time, I had not seen the film. Below are my thoughts but please, also be sure to read Chris’s review as well.)
Like all good people, I’m currently obsessed with the Winter Olympics. Earlier this week I asked a couple of friends if they could recommend some good Winter Olympics movies. A lot of movies were suggested but, without fail, everyone thought I should see Miracle. (A lot of people also suggested Cool Runnings, which I’ll be watching next week.) Having watched Miracle earlier today, I can see why everyone recommended it.
The year is 1980 and two hockey teams are about to face off at the Winter Olympics in upstate New York. (The location, to be exact, is Lake Placid. Fortunately, the giant alligators are nowhere to be seen.)
On one side you have the Russian team (or the Soviets as they were known back then). They are widely considered to be one of the greatest hockey teams in history. They are big, fierce, and determined. Coming from a system that has declared individuality to be a crime against the state, the Soviet team plays like a machine. The Soviets have won the gold in the last four Olympics. As one American coach puts it, their greatest strength is that every other hockey team in the world is terrified of them.
On the other side, you have the American team. However, this isn’t the type of American dream team that one would expect to see today. In 1980, professional athletes were not allowed to compete on the U.S. Olympic team. Instead, the 1980 hockey team is made up of amateurs and college players. Unlike the Soviet teams, the American don’t have a government that grooms and supports them. Instead, win or lose, they have to do it on their own.
Of course, it’s not just two hockey teams that are about to face off. It’s also two super powers and two very different ways of life. In 1980, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were the two most powerful rivals in the world. The Soviets were trapped in an endless and unpopular war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the economy was shaky, American citizens were being held hostage in Iran, and an ineffective President gave long-winded speeches about how unhappy everyone in the country appeared to be. Both countries needed a victory but only one could win.
And it would take a miracle for that winning team to be American…
I don’t think it requires a spoiler alert to tell you that’s exactly what happens. I mean, after all, I’m reviewing a film called Miracle! On top of that, it’s based on true events. The U.S. hockey team — made up of college students and led by Coach Herb Brooks (played, in one of his best performance, by Kurt Russell) — not only managed to defeat the highly favored Soviet team but they went on to win the gold medal.
Even if you didn’t know that the Americans beat the Russians, you would never have any doubt about how Miracle is going to end. Miracle is a film that utilizes almost every sports film cliché but it manages to do so with such sincerity and such style that you don’t mind the fact that the movie doesn’t exactly take you by surprise. Is there any actor who is as good at project sincerity and human decency as Kurt Russell? Whenever he says that he’s going to make his team into champions, you believe him. When he says that he’s being hard on them because he wants them to be the best, you never doubt him or his techniques. When he says that he’s proud of his team and his country, it brings tears to your eyes. If there’s ever a movie that deserves a chant of “USA! USA! USA!,” it’s Miracle.