Disney has really made a stand with their sports films. Remember the Titans was a huge hit for the studio, not to mention a great sports movie. Miracle continues the trend of superior sports films from the studio, packing in some amazing photography and a Kurt Russell performance that tops anything he’s ever done before.
Miracle recounts the classic story of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team. Assembled from various colleges and minor league teams, Herb Brooks (Russell) molds the team to utter perfection, pushing them to their absolute limits. Up against them is a Soviet team considered to be unbeatable. The young United States team pulls everything together for one final deciding game against their rivals, which would take them to the gold medal game.
It’s incredible to think that none of the actual players in this movie are actors. All of them were tested as hockey players first and it absolutely shows during the action sequences. It doesn’t even affect the story segments either. All of these unknowns do a simply amazing job even though the focus is on Russell, whom as I said before, is just perfect as Herb Brooks.
Of course, this is far from a perfect movie. The sports clichÈ’s are here in full force. Team dissension, training vignettes, the ignored sports wife, constant attention to the clock during games, and the coach who baffles others by his practice sessions. The other issue is the obvious outcome, which means no matter how great the tension or build up is, you know what’s going to happen.
However, this one is saved by the greatest sports movie photography ever, using angles that would be simply impossible just a few years ago. The documentary feel used throughout is a great touch as well. Also, all the clichÈ’s used over the years in this genre probably come from this true story anyway. It’s all forgivable and becomes a great experience that the entire family will enjoy. (**** out of *****)
Miracle is available in separate 2.35:1 widescreen and full screen editions. Both discs contain the same features. Picture quality here is occasionally shaky, but the hockey sequences are some of the best looking moments on the format. Grain is an issue throughout, especially in darker scenes. There’s a brief moment with Kurt Russell on a bus that is just ghastly. But, much like the movie, the actual hockey sequences save it. (****)
Sound options include English and French 5.1 surround. This is a dry track for the most part, but (guess what?) is saved by the hockey scenes. Players skate from speaker to speaker, all through the sound field. The puck is passed about, always in the proper speaker. Oddly, the crowd is absent from the rears for the most part, a real missed opportunity. Also, no matter how hard someone gets hit; the bass is extremely limited, making this track severely disappointing. (***)
This 2-disc set is pretty packed, though the “4 hours of special features” on the back of the case is a stretch. Disc one houses an audio commentary from director Gavin O’Connor, editor John Gilroy, and photography director Daniel Stoloff. Also on disc 1 is an 18 minute standard making of feature which aired on the Disney Channel. There is some footage from the actual game tossed in, but the rest is filled with the actors praising each other in the usual manner.
Disc 2 starts with some great outtakes, running about 5 minutes. Oddly, there are some scenes here that are not actually in the film, but no other deleted scenes are present on the disc. Next up is “From Hockey to Hollywood,” a nearly half hour look at how the players/actors were sorted through from the hundreds that tried out for the 20 separate roles on the team. There is an ESPN Roundtable segment that runs about 40 minutes. It features 3 of the real players from the team along with Kurt Russell discussing the movie and the events that inspired it.
Coming in next is a 10-minute look at the sound. This one is actually quite interesting as no foley artists were used. Everything was recorded on the ice. Ironically and sadly, there is nothing here on the superb soundtrack. Finally there is a 21-minute segment introduced by the director which features the real Herb Brooks discussing his real life experience to the crew. Its video quality is abysmal, but the director gives an explanation.
There is certainly some great stuff here, but the menus are really lacking. It’s just one screen with generic text while a clip from the movie plays in the back. Definitely could use some improvement here. However, it’s great to see some credit given to the actual people who inspired the story unlike some recent discs like Radio and League of Their Own that obviously didn’t think it was necessary. (****)
Miracle is a great sports movie and will undoubtedly go down as one of the best of all time. Rarely is so much effort put into filming the actual sports sequences and it all pays off here. Some of the generic clichÈ’s will likely turn some people off, but there is still plenty of entertainment value here. If you’re worried about the kids, don’t worry. The PG rating is really a bit much. If your kid has ever seen a hockey game, you’ll have nothing to worry about here. “Rough Sports Action” is hardly a reason for a PG rating.
Note: There is an excellent disc that goes right along with this set from HBO entitled “Do You Believe in Miracles?” It’s a 60-minute doc that gets the real players and coaches POV’s. If you love the movie, you need this separate disc.
Originally posted at Breaking Windows.