Miracle

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Rating: PG

Starring:
Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks
Patricia Clarkson as Patty Brooks
Noah Emmerich as Craig Patrick
Sean McCann as Walter Bush
Kenneth Welsh as Doc Nagobads
Eddie Cahill as Jim Craig
Patrick O’Brien Demsey as Mike Eruzione
Michael Mantenuto as Jack O’Callahan
Nathan West as Rob McClanahan
Kenneth Mitchell as Ralph Cox
Eric Peter-Kaiser as Mark Johnson
Bobby Hanson as Dave Silk
Joseph Cure as Mike Ramsey
Billy Schneider as Buzz Schneider
Nate Miller as John ‘Bah’ Harrington

Special Features:
Commentary by director Gavin O’Connor, editor John Gilroy and director of photography Daniel Stoloff

“The Making of Miracle”

“First Impressions: Herb Brooks with Kurt Russell and the filmmakers”

Outtakes

Miracle ESPN roundtable with members of the 1980 team, actor Kurt Russell and host Linda Cohn

“From Hockey to Hollywood: The Actors’ Journey” featurette

The Sound Of “Miracle” behind the scenes featurette

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
THX Certified
French Language
Running Time: 136 Minutes

Synopsis:
Miracle is based on the true story of the US hockey team’s improbable victory over the Soviets at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.

The story starts with Herb Brooks winning the job of coaching the Olympic hockey team. Having been cut as a player from the team that last won the Olympic gold in 1960, Herb is eager to get back to the Olympics and win the medal that eluded him. The only thing standing between him and that victory is the superior Soviet team. Known throughout the world for their strength, talent, and unique strategy, the Soviets have dominated even the professional U.S. hockey teams for years.

In order to beat the Soviets, Herb decides that he must use their own strategy against them. He starts by recruiting unique amateur hockey players throughout the US. He looks for a combination of talent and heart, but his strategy baffles his bosses and colleagues. Having picked his team, Brooks begins a grueling training program to condition the players, develop new strategy, and transform them mentally. But will his tough coaching style tear his team apart before they even begin the road to the Olympics?

Miracle is rated PG for language and some rough sports action.

The Movie:
Disney continues their string of great sports films with Miracle. This film follows the equally entertaining The Rookie and Remember The Titans. Like those other movies, it tells the tale of underdogs who must overcome their own shortcomings in order to win. It’s a feel-good formula that has consistently worked. But this film has the added responsibility of telling a legendary sports tale and doing so faithfully. Fortunately, it pulls that off well.

The sets, costumes, and overall feel of the film are accurately portrayed. You can tell from Kurt Russell’s hair alone that you’re firmly planted in the early 80′s. The film starts out with a montage of notable political and cultural landmarks that contributed to the atmosphere leading up to the Olympics. The U.S. was desperately looking for a positive, faith-restoring victory in an otherwise dubious time and this hockey victory was it. The movie does an excellent job of emphasizing how this was so much more than just a hockey game. But at the same time it emphasizes how Herb Brooks and his team desperately wanted the gold medal long before the TV cameras turned on them and long before anyone believed they had a chance to stage an upset.

Kurt Russell is excellent as Herb Brooks. His costume, hair, accent, and mannerisms totally transform him into the character to the point that you forget that it’s Russell. He displays the determined, tough nature of the coach well. He also convincingly develops a relationship with his team over time. The team players are all played by unknowns. The creators of Miracle specifically cast hockey players who could act rather than actors who could play hockey. They all did excellent jobs and I was amazed to find out after viewing the film that they had never acted before. Patricia Clarkson also supports Russell as Patty Brooks, Herb’s wife. Noah Emmerich rounds out the excellent cast as Herb’s assistant coach Craig Patrick.

I’m not a hockey fan, but I think that the hockey scenes were well choreographed. The games made sense and were edited in a way you could follow even with minimal hockey knowledge. They also set up the final scenes with the Soviets to match what was seen on TV. It’s amazing how closely they got it to look like that footage. Al Michaels even comes in to provide commentary for the film to add to the authenticity. The rousing score by Mark Isham is truly first rate and adds to the excitement of the movie.

The only drawback of the film is the unavoidable one – you know the ending of the film before it even begins. Few people watching the film don’t know that the U.S. ends up beating Russia and winning Olympic gold. This takes away from a bit of the suspense of the film. But fortunately the ride to get to the final destination is entertaining enough to make the movie worth watching. You get to know the men behind the legends and the details behind their long trip to sports legend. It’s a true underdog story that celebrates hard work, teamwork, and dreaming big.

The Extras:
Here’s a look at the highlights of the bonus features on the DVD:

Commentary by director Gavin O’Connor, editor John Gilroy and director of photography Daniel Stoloff – While this commentary is a little dry, Gavin O’Connor and his crew do provide a lot of information on the making of the movie. They talk about the challenges of filming the movie and point out bits of trivia here and there. This commentary is probably more for hardcore fans of Miracle than general audiences.

“The Making of Miracle” – This is your standard “making of” video featuring behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew. It gives you a little taste of the making of the movie, but if you want something more in-depth you’ll need to look at the bonus features on the second disc.

“First Impressions: Herb Brooks with Kurt Russell and the filmmakers” – In preparing for the movie, Kurt Russell and the creators met with the real Herb Brooks (who died shortly after the movie completed filming). They quizzed him on the events leading up to the Olympics, his coaching style, his thoughts on the Soviets, etc etc etc. All of this was videotaped and is presented here on the DVD in rough form. It’s quite interesting and well worth checking out if you want to know more about Herb Brooks.

Outtakes – This is five minutes of outtakes featuring the cast flubbing lines, clowning on set, falling on the ice, etc. It’s pretty entertaining and well worth checking out.

Miracle ESPN roundtable with members of the 1980 team, actor Kurt Russell and host Linda Cohn – This 41 minute ESPN special features a discussion between host Linda Cohn, Kurt Russell, and three members of the original Olympic hockey team. They discuss their personal experiences with Herb Brooks and reminisce about his coaching style, sense of humor, and more. It’s another interesting look at Brooks from a slightly different perspective.

“From Hockey to Hollywood: The Actors’ Journey” featurette – Miracle is unique because it took a group of unknown hockey players and turned them into actors. This feature documents that process. Each actor is highlighted and the casting directors and crew discuss their unique personalities and talents. It’s quite interesting to see how they were trained for the staged hockey scenes and how they prepared for their acting moments.

The Sound Of “Miracle” behind the scenes featurette – The final feature on the DVD discusses how the sound effects were made for the film. Every skate sound, puck collision, and smack into the glass was pre-recorded and added into the movie. This details how they did it and it is quite interesting. The scenes are shown before and after sound effects were added and it’s a dramatic difference. Mark Isham and the music are also highlighted here.

The Bottom Line:
Miracle is a movie not only for sports fans but anyone looking for a feel-good film and a story of the underdogs winning in the end.

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