Miracle Revisits the Miracle On Ice

Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks in Miracle. Photo by Chris Large / Disney Enterprises.

Miracle revisits the Miracle on Ice, when the United States defeated the Soviet Union to get a step closer to the Gold Medal during the 1980 Winter Olympics.

“Do you believe in miracles? YES!”

Then-ABC sports broadcaster Al Michaels captured the moment rather well with the now-iconic line.  Forty years to the day, the game remains one of the best moments in sports history.  One that most Americans thought aired live on television but ABC tape-delayed it because of prime-time viewing.  Think about how such a decision would play out now in this age of social media!

The film’s opening montage sets up the current affairs leading into the game.  In the event that you’re not caught up on U.S. history, a Cold War had been taking place since before the 1947 Truman Doctrine.  It wouldn’t end until 1991.

Going into the 1980 games, the Soviet Union had taken home five of the last six gold medals.  To say that the US was the true underdog in this game wouldn’t be an unfair statement.  Team USA was competing with college players while Russia had some of the best professionals on their team.

This film is every bit the inspirational film that it needs to be with Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) at the helm.  When we first meet Brooks and wife Patti (Patricia Clarkson), the USOC is interviewing the Minnesota coach for the Team USA coaching job.  It isn’t until heading to Colorado Springs in which Brooks meets with assistant coach Craig Patrick (Noah Emmerich).

It doesn’t make much sense here to rehash history.  If you’re familiar with sports, you already know what happened.  In addition to the hockey taking place, the film does its best to show us the happenings behind the scenes.  Brooks’ coaching methods weren’t exactly orthodox and we’re watching the film through his eyes.  He was one of the last guys cut from the 1960 Team USA team and Mark Isham’s score plays up the moment.  Meanwhile, thirteen of the twenty players would go onto see time in the NHL.  Interestingly enough, Neal Broten is the the only player on the team to take home championships at the collegiate, professional, and Olympic levels of play.

For what its worth, the film does go through great pains to add some drama just for the sake of doing so.  The fight between Rob McClanahan (Nathan West) and Jack O’Callahan (Michael Mantenuto) never took place according to an interview with O’Callahan.  This isn’t to say that college rivalries aren’t intense because of course, they are!

Brooks himself never got to see the film.  The coach passed away in a car accident in August 2003.  However, he served as a consultant during principal photography.  That said, he was there on the ice when it really mattered.  Brooks would go onto coach Team USA again in 2002.  The USA would defeat Russia 22 years to the date in a semi-final matchup before falling to Canada.

When it comes to inspirational sports films, Miracle is near the top of the list.

DIRECTOR:  Gavin O’Connor
SCREENWRITER:  Eric Guggenheim
CAST:  Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson, Noah Emmerich, Sean McCann, Kenneth Welsh, Eddie Cahill

Walt Disney Pictures opened Miracle in theaters on February 6, 2004. The film is currently available for streaming on Disney+. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.