Arguably, sports films pose the greatest challenge for filmmakers: the plot consists of either winning or losing, they introduce an absurd number of characters which audiences must not only keep straight but also love, and the script combines an abundance of sports commentary interlaced with the typical empowering, up-lifting speech given by the coach at an opportune moment. Nevertheless, Miracle aptly succeeds in transforming a seemingly flimsy outline into an exhilarating and inspiring film. Miracle is the true story of Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell), coach of the U.S. Olympic hockey team whom he led to gold in 1980 against the seemingly insurmountable odds of a Soviet victory.
More than five members of the team you can’t possibly recognize or remember, but director Gavin O’Connor makes certain that you love that team almost as if we students were not only born when the U.S. team beat the Soviets, but that we were in the crowd cheering them on.
O’Connor deserves further accolades for his use of actors who are virtually unknown. Although Russell remains a recognizable face in film, he hardly has the star power he used to. For some of the top members of the team itself, this is their very first film, and for those who have appeared in other movies – including a Mighty Ducks (D2) alum – this will be their first box office success. They are an extraordinary ensemble cast with fantastic chemistry between them.
Remember now, this is a Disney film, and a sports one at that, so if you expect Oscar as well as Olympic gold you will be severely let down. Nevertheless, Miracle creates an exciting, enjoyable film that will not disappoint audiences despite its simplicity and predictability.
The games themselves are the film’s greatest asset. The film achieves truly extraordinary cinematography. The movement on the ice and the proximity and pace of the camera itself removes the audience from their seats and places them directly on the ice. This effect leads not only to a remarkably realistic film, but one so fast-paced and exciting that on more than one occasion several people in theater cheered. I confess I found it difficult to adhere to theater etiquette myself and not join them. B