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Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Casual Critic — Miracle

Twenty-five years ago today, the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team won the gold medal. Of course, the game everyone remembers was two days earlier, when we beat the hated U.S.S.R. in the midst of the Cold War.

Miracle pulls off the difficult task of keeping your interest while telling a story of which the ending is known long before you ever pop in the DVD. The story of the 1980 U.S. Hockey team is mostly told through the experiences of the head coach, Herb Brooks, whose personal story is compelling enough to drive the film. Yet Brooks' story never dominates the movie, which likely would have caused it to veer off in a direction that most viewers hadn't come to see.

Vaguely remembering the time in my life that solidified me as a life-long sports fan — I just assumed Philly's teams always went to the championship as a kid—I enjoyed the opening montage that gave you a brief history of the time period. More than a sports movie, Miracle captured the group dynamics of the team in a way that kept you guessing. At several points, I was wondering whether Brooks was a genius or a jackass that eventually did a mea culpa to get his team back. I was surprised by the length of the final game sequence, but game action generally does not overwhelm the film.

This is the first DVD I've seen where the extras are very good. Apparently added after the death of Brooks — tragically killed in a car accident before the film was complete — one extra shows raw coverage of a pre-production meeting (or meetings) with Brooks that shows some of the psychology he brought to coaching that was just great. Another answered a question I thought of as I watched the movie—being that they were depicting actual games, how closely did the action mirror reality? Side-by-side viewings of game film and the movie are flat out cool, and answer the question leaving no doubt the there was enormous attention to detail.

Even if you're not a sports fan, Miracle is worth watching.

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