The 2004 sports drama Miracle craftily and persuasively recreated the famous United States vs. Soviet Union hockey game where the Americans pulled one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history, beating their heavily favored opponents in the medal round, which would send Team USA to collect a rather unexpected gold medal. Kurt Russell delivered one of his best and most undervalued performances as head coach Herb Brooks, evoking the fiercely competitive nature and the fatherly instincts that helped to make Brooks one of the more revered coaches to work the frozen ponds. Directed by Gavin O’Connor with the appropriate grit and determination that the story called for, Miracle easily contains some of the better done-for-the-movies ice-hockey footage that’s ever been captured; this is a lightning-fast and extremely rough sport to physically play, and the filmmakers did an excellent job in stressing how hard and intense the on-ice fury can get. Dan Stoloff’s sharp cinematography got in close and tight with the action, with John Gilroy and Daric Loo’s fast-paced but never chaotic editing helping to keep the film moving at a brisk pace.
Eric Guggenheim and Mike Rich’s well-researched screenplay stuck with the facts, and with a story like that, there’s no real need to embellish much, as the story of “The Miracle on Ice” is exciting enough without any phony grandstanding. All of the actors did a commendable job especially considering that most were hired for their hockey skills and less their acting abilities. Patricia Clarkson and Noah Emmerich both delivered excellent supporting work. Mark Isham’s score hits some big, blustery notes of personal triumph that feel well-earned, and it’s hard not to enjoy a film that features Russell wearing plaid pants and sporting that awesome early-80’s haircut. A hit with both critics and audiences, Miracle if definitely one of the better hockey movies that I can think of, on the list with the masterful Slap Shot, underrated and hilarious Goon, and the lightweight but still enjoyable Mystery, Alaska. I guess I need to track down Idol of the Crowds, from 1937, with John Wayne as a hockey player!