Classic Movie Review: Miracle

Release Date: Feb 2nd, 2004

Director: Gavin O’Connor

Cast: Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson, Noah Emmerich, Michael Mantenuto, Eddie Cahill, Patrick O’Brien Demsey, Nathan West, Kenneth Mitchell, Eric Peter-Kaiser, Joseph Cure, Kenneth Welsh

Miracle tells the true story of Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell), the player-turned-coach who led the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to victory over the seemingly invincible Russian squad.

With the 2018 Winter Olympics kicking off this week, there’s plenty of movies to get you in the spirit. One of the best ones to start with however is 2004’s Miracle.

There’s nothing like a good underdog story. The only thing better is when it’s based on a true story. In 1979, after years of eastern counties dominating in hockey at the Winter Olympics, the US Olympics Committee hired coach and former player Herb Brooks with a plan to revitalize the US team.

Brooks has his work cut out for him though with only six months to take a team that’s never played together and train them to be able to go toe-to-toe with the “best in the world,” Russian team at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. Throwing out many of the coaching norms of the time, he pushes his players well beyond what they think they’re capable of.

miracle-russell-and-team

The film also shows the political overtones forced on the games that year, as the US made the decision to boycott the summer Olympics in Moscow as a result of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December of 1979. These events bring even more pressure for a victory over Russia in hockey.

Miracle is definitely a movie that anyone can enjoy; whether or not you “know the difference between a blue line and a clothes line.” Kurt Russell gives an excellent performance, as the tough as nails coach. Brooks has a unique coaching style, often asking his players to do seemingly absurd or unorthodox tasks which later reveal to be great character lessons. No matter how hard he is, the underlying goal is always to make his team better players.

I did some brief reading up on him after the movie. The real life players have spoken fondly about “Brooksisms;” sayings that were unique to Herb that he’d use over and over to get his point across. Many of those sayings were worked into the movie.

Miracle-Still4

There’s also a “good coach/bad coach” dynamic between Brooks and the assistant coach Craig Patrick, played by Noah Emmerich, which works well and makes for some great moments. The players also show a lot of heart, and it’s inspiring to watch them go from strangers, even a few of them rivals, to a family. Additionally, the end credits go through the team roster, and gives info on what they’re doing now (or at least as of 2004).

Miracle is a heart warming true story about what a group of individuals can accomplish if they dig in and refuse to give less than their best. Sadly, Herb Brooks died in a car accident before the film finished shooting. This movie clearly proves he was one of the greats.

Miracle gets a score of 9 inspirational speeches out of 10

Great moments are born from great opportunity, and that’s what you have here tonight, boys. That’s what you’ve earned here tonight. One game; if we played them ten times, they might win nine. But not this game, not tonight. Tonight, we skate with them. Tonight we stay with them, and we shut them down because we can. Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world.
You were born to be hockey players—every one of you, and you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Their time is done. It’s over. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. Screw ’em. This is your time. Now go out there and take it!

~Herb Brooks