Herb Brooks portrayed by Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Kurt Russell (Elvis) is driven to succeed. At the start of the film, it is imparted to the viewer that he has won three NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) men’s hockey championships in 1974, 1976 and 1979. He has accomplished the feat as the head coach of his alma mater, the Minnesota Golden Gophers. What haunts Brooks, is the championship he didn’t win; not because he was out-coached, but because he never had the opportunity to even play. He was the last person cut before the roster was finalized for the 1960 U.S. Olympic Ice Hockey Team. The team went on to win the gold medal at the games, but all Brooks could do was wonder what might have been. The film opens with Brooks getting a potential second chance to re-write his own history, in a matter of speaking.
Walter Bush (Sean McCann) has been given the seemingly thankless job of finding a head coach for the 1980 U.S. Olympic Ice Hockey Team. Why is the job thankless? The reason is the Russian federation team has been so dominant in men’s hockey, that they are considered invincible. As one part of the film highlights, the Russian team is so well trained and coached, and has players of such world class talent, that even the NHL (National Hockey League) All- Stars can’t compete with them. A news broadcast briefly discusses the game the NHL All-Stars lost at Madison Square Garden on February 11, 1979 by a score of 6-0. If the best the NHL has to offer can’t compete with the Russian team, how can a bunch of recent college grads, stand a chance?
While hosting a costume party with his wife, Patti, who is played in the film by Golden Globe winner Patricia Clarkson (Sharp Objects), Brooks gets the call. He has been hired to coach the team. He knows, however, that the people who hired him don’t expect him to win, at least certainly not a gold medal. The governing Olympic hockey commission wants Brooks to coach the team to a point where they’re not embarrassed, that, however, is not good enough for Brooks.
Brooks wastes little time in assembling his staff. For the purposes of the film, his staff consists of his assistant coach Craig Patrick, a role acted by Noah Emmerich (The Americans). In addition, there is the team doctor, portrayed by Emmy nominee Kenneth Walsh (Edison: The Wizard of Light). Furthermore, what is supposed to be a try out lasting several days, is over within the course of several hours. Brooks knows who he wants to look at, for the twenty spots that are open on the team. Three of the twenty players, that are shown throughout the film, among others, are Jim Craig (Eddie Cahill); Mike Eruzione (Patrick O’Brien Dempsey); and Jack O’Callahan (Michael Mantenuto).
The remainder of the film, showcases the grueling workouts Brooks puts the team through, his interesting way of motivating his players, as well as some practice games. The highlight of the movie is the recreation of the game that team USA played against the then, Soviet Union, on February 22, 1980 in Lake Placid, New York at the Lake Placid Olympic Center. (As an aside: The arena was renamed the Herb Brooks Arena).
Trivia buffs take note: “Miracle” is considered one of the most accurate portrayals of true events ever filmed, including the use of the dialogue. The 20 actors who portrayed the U.S. Olympic Ice Hockey Team, were chosen from over 4,000 actors who auditioned to be in the film. The 20 actors, who were eventually chosen, were taken by the film makers more for their hockey skills than their acting talent. Olympic gold medalist, Buzz Schneider is played in the film by his son Billy Schneider. The film marked the first time Kurt Russell has worked for Disney, since he starred in the 1975 film “The World’s Strongest Man.”
Miracle was directed by Gavin O’Connor (The Way Back) and written for the screen by Eric Guggenheim (Magnum P.I.). The film was released in the theaters on February 6, 2004. The movie encompasses the genres of biography, drama, history and sport.
Miracle is a feel good movie. I have seen it before, but it has been a number of years, so I was glad I rewatched it recently, since the world is going through some dark times. The film won’t and didn’t fix any of those problems, but it did what is was meant to do, take my mind off of them for a few hours. Perhaps it can do the same for you. As of the writing of this post “Miracle” is streaming on Netflix.