The “triumph over adversity” sports film is a heavily visited theme.
Dating back to Rocky, which many consider to be the prototypical film in the genre, there have been many films that followed the same blueprint, transplanting the basic story into every conceivable different sporting event.
Miracle, the latest entry into this series of films, is different from most of them, as it is based on a true story.
The film deals with the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. It follows the team, coached by Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell), all the way from their initial tryouts to the medal round of the Olympics.
Initially, the powers that be are suspicious of Herb, as he chooses players that may not be the most talented, but who he feels will make the best Olympic team.
Sure enough, the team begins bonding and becoming better under the coaching of the stern but caring Coach Brooks.
The film culminates in a match-up between the underdog United States and the powerhouse Soviet team, who had won the gold medal for the past 20 years, and were considered by most at that point to be the best hockey team in the world.
There is nothing particularly bad about this film – it is just terribly perfunctory. Anyone who has seen this type of movie before will be able to tell every single point in the plot after about the first 10 minutes. But for someone in the right mood, the movie is fairly energetic, and it’s 150-minute running time passes by fairly briskly. It is hard to imagine anyone walking out of the theater in a bad mood because it is such a feel-good film.
The movie also boasts a solid performance by Kurt Russell, makes his character likeable, despite the fact that some of the things he subjects his players to at practice come off as sort of sick and inhumane. His obligatory speech to his players before the big game is also quite remarkable.
Patricia Clarkson is very good as Herb’s loving wife. Noah Emmerich, who has become the token movie sidekick, plays Herb’s assistant coach Craig.
As far as the players, there are too many of them for anyone to get significant screen time, but Michael Mantenuto stands out as the brash and cocky Jack O’Callahan.
All in all, there is nothing to distinguish this movie from its sports movie predecessors, except maybe some anti-Communist sentiments stemming from the 1980 Russian invasion of Afghanistan. But if you enjoy hockey and aren’t feeling too cynical, you may just have fun at this feel-good film.
Chuck DelRoss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org