Patriotic Picks: Miracle (2004)
Last week we started off our “Patriotic Picks” with the 90’s classic, Independence Day, but today we continue our series with a slightly more serious title. Miracle was released in 2004 and focuses on what people dubbed the “Miracle on Ice” from the U.S. hockey team during the 1980 Olympics. The film was directed by Gavin O’Connor and written by Eric Guggenheim and Mike Rich. It starred Kurt Russell as Coach Herb Brooks and Noah Emmerich as Assistant Coach Craig Patrick. The cast also included Patricia Clarkson, Kenneth Welsh, Eddie Cahill, Patrick O’Brien Dempsey, Michael Mantenuto, and Nathan West. The film only went on to earn $64 million at the box office, but Miracle consistently ranks among the top in various lists about the greatest sports movies of all time.
So, why does this movie about hockey rank among our favorite patriotic films?
1) The Context
One of the things this movie does extremely well is establish the context of what was going on in the United States and the world during this time. The opening reel might be lengthy, but it covers the events and attitudes in the United States from 1976 to 1979 when the actual story begins. It leans into the tensions and rivalries that are present from the Cold War, and all of these occurrences add another layer of pressure on the hockey team to prevail. It truly adds weight to the losses and victories of this team and just how important they were to the American public. They also maintain this context throughout the film as more events develop like the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. It’s brilliantly interwoven into the main story of the U.S. hockey team, and it helps the audience to understand the stakes going into the 1980 Olympics.
2) Kurt Russell
To be honest, it is almost hard to distinguish between Kurt Russell and the character of Herb Brooks in this movie, which is part of what makes this movie so amazing. Russell gives this character an intensity that is almost shocking, but it is exactly what the team needs. Russell completely pulls off the part of a coach who sees his team’s potential, how they can win, and pushes them accordingly. Of course, there are also parts of the story where Brooks doesn’t want the hockey game to be more than what it is. He does not want it to be an allegory of what is happening in world events, and he certainly does not want the boys to feel that added pressure. Russell delivers on this tension in his performance, and he ends up giving us an intense character that we can cheer for throughout the entire story.
3) The Final Soviet Game
So, Miracle is actually a pretty long movie. The filmmakers take a lot of time for the audience to grow with this team before we ever hit the Olympics, but once we get to that point of the story, the game against the Soviets is the standout moment. A large portion of time covers the intricacies of that game, and the end result is an amazing performance about an unforgettable moment. The speech given by Brooks before the game is perfect with him admitting that they might not win every time, but they can win this one game in this one moment. I love how their teamwork is emphasized throughout the entire game, and it perfectly captures every tension filled minute and how hard this team worked. The energy of the crowd throughout the entire game only enhances these scenes, and I have to say for a film that is based on events almost 40 years ago, it made me feel proud. This game is an example of Americans at their best, enduring and working together toward a common goal. They show that this hockey game was about so much more, and it an inspirational sequence to watch unfold.
So, have you watched Miracle before? What are some of your favorite moments?
Be sure to share them in the comments below, and be on the lookout next Friday as we explore another patriotic favorite.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.