Watching sports films, usually they come down to one of two outcomes – the protagonist wins or the protagonist loses but still scores a moral victory. For Gavin O’Connor’s Miracle, there’s never any doubt about the outcome as it’s based on Team USA’s shocking run at the 1980 Olympics for hockey. Dubbed the “Miracle on Ice,” the squad has become the prototype for underdog teams. So with suspense totally out the window in as far as victory is concerned, the journey to the end had to become the focus for the film. And that’s exactly what O’Connor does. He makes Miracle a story about people rather than just one a team going for the win. In doing so, O’Connor makes Miracle one of the more thoughtful and enjoyable films revolving around sports.
Hockey is a team sport where superstars can make a difference but rarely can they carry a team. Wayne Gretzky had the likes of Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey surrounding him. More recently, with the Pittsburgh Penguins raising the Stanley Cup for a third time, prodigy Sidney Crosby took something of a backseat to his teammate Evgeni Malkin. While the film could have focused on one player, the team aspect would have been lost to a large extent. Instead, the script follows coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) and his against-the-grain approach to picking his squad and training them. Rather than taking the best players simply based on stats, Brooks took an approach that put heart and character on an equal level as goals and assists. To make his team you had to be a team player in the greatest sense of the word.
For several players, this was a struggle as they go after personal glory and rebel against Brooks’ hard-nosed discipline. It’s here where much of the film’s plot and conflict comes from. By the time the games come around, they’re largely an afterthought. While some of the scenes are corny, there’s plenty of memorable moments where the team defines itself and you can literally see them come together. One such example is the late-night skate Brooks makes them do after a poor tune-up match. Back and forth they go, whistle blowing, “Again,” becomes Brooks’ mantra even after the arena lights have been shut down. The payoff is predictable and sappy, yet it’s nonetheless satisfying as a sports fan.
Russell is magnificent as Brooks, playing the late coach in a very matter-of-fact manner. This showcases Brooks’ approach. Although many of his moves and decisions were unorthodox and puzzling, to Brooks it was just the way it was. Russell provides an engrossing character in which the film can be grounded in and molded around.
Miracle provides a journey with a predetermined and well-known destination. However, O’Connor tells the story in such a manner that is satisfying and easy to get wrapped up in.
Miracle Blu-ray Review
The Miracle Blu-ray release is a winner that both looks great and contains a wealth of bonus features. The film appears flawless with its widescreen 1080p high definition transfer. The on-ice action particularly pops. Audio is in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with dubbed tracks in both French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles are available in all three languages as well.
Director Gavin O’Connor, Director of Photography Dan Stoloff and Editor John Gilroy come together to offer an audio commentary in which they discuss their experiences working on the film. Additional bonus features include a making-of featurette, a meeting between real-life Team USA coach Herb Brooks with Kurt Russell and the filmmakers, outtakes, an ESPN Roundtable and separate featurettes on both the actors and the sound engineering.