I miss hockey. I miss all sports in general, actually. In fact, a huge boost for me personally in feeling normal again after this COVID-19 business will be when sports return. In the meantime, I decided to watch Miracle (2004), a film based on the true story of the United States men’s hockey team defeating perennial world power house the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics held in Lake Placid, New York. Nothing will replace the real thing, but a film version is not too bad. Not this one, anyway.
It is hard to believe I was actually alive for the events of Miracle, at least for me anyway. I was but an infant at that time, though. Still, if you are not familiar with what happened, the United States men’s hockey team went into the 1980 Winter Olympic Games with a group of underrated amateurs that nobody believed was capable of taking down the puck juggernaut that was the Soviet Union. To provide further context, the movie weaves in historical events from the Cold War between the world’s two superpowers. At times the references to that conflict seemed purposeless, but I guess they were needed if you did not fully understand the rivalry between the countries. Still, the primary focus of the film is on Coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russel) putting together a disparate group of former college hockey players who need to get over the bitterness they feel towards each other due to playing against each other previously. Between Brooks and Assistant Coach Craig Patrick (Noah Emmerich), they form a sort of good cop/bad cop routine that transforms the team from a collection of individuals into a well conditioned family of hockey players. Only by doing that could that hope to defeat the Soviet Union and go on to claim the gold medal.
Of course, Miracle relies on a tried and true story-telling method in sports films. You can see this in everything from Major League to The Mighty Ducks. What makes Miracle different, though, is that it actually happened. Sure, it is a bunch of actors fulfilling dramatic roles, but at least the historical nature of it makes it not completely manufactured. Nonetheless, it kind of depends on what you are looking for in a movie as to how you will be entertained by it. If you like the development of interpersonal relationships while working towards a common goal, then yeah, it has that a bit. If you want some sweet hockey action, then yeah, there is some of that too. Taken as a whole, though, the movie drags along a little. It is not bad, but it is sort of like watching any other event from the past that is made into a movie: you know the ending. Also, it should be noted that this was done by Disney, which is great. However, if you think that Coach Brooks was not cursing a blue streak at his players every day in practice, then I am not sure what to tell you.
As it is currently the Easter season and some of the daily readings are taken from the Acts of the Apostles (my favorite book of the Bible), I could not help but think about them while watching Miracle. In the Gospels, the Apostles were not necessarily a unified collection of followers of Jesus. They argued with each other over who was the greatest, and they scattered during the Passion. However, they do come together after the Ascension, and the miracle they complete is the forming of a religion that has lasted until this day. I will admit, it is not the most perfect comparison, but it is good to keep these things in mind while watching any film.
I can unequivocally recommend Miracle to any audience. It may not be the most exciting film at times, but it has a good message with a happy ending. It may be a little schmaltzy, but at least it will not make you feel sad.