Langston Hughes wrote of what takes place when a dream is deferred. He used graphic terms, like rotten meat and running sores. But sometimes a dream deferred is a fire that burns in a person.
“Miracle” tells the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. We are given an inside look at how it took on and defeated the Russian team, which many considered the greatest of all time.
The story moves us back to those days, when the United States doubted itself. Set against the backdrop of the Iran hostage crisis and the move to politicize the Olympics after the Russians invaded Afghanistan, “Miracle” lets us see that there was a great deal riding on the shoulders of the team.
The story centers on Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell). Brooks brought to the U.S. Olympic hockey committee a radical vision of how the American team could compete with the world. It had been 20 years since the U.S. team had medaled in hockey. The years that preceded Brooks were years of frustration as the Russians grew to dominate.
Brooks tells the committee that it has to be his way and his vision—or he will not coach. He does not allow the committee to help choose the team, and he locks the committee out of the locker room. His vision allows no one but him to influence the team. He wants no distractions for the task ahead.
Brooks is a taskmaster who demands the team continually work hard on conditioning. He believes that the team needs to be the best conditioned team at the games.
What drives this man? It is the dream deferred. Brooks, you see, was to be on the last U.S. team to win the gold. But a week before those games, the coach cut him and sent him home. That experience created a fire that burns in him and makes him want to go back and win again.
“Miracle” is a formula movie. It is one of a line of films that Walt Disney Studios have become famous for. It joins other Disney films like “The Rookie” and “Remember the Titans.” Standing behind this movie is the true story of this great team. Or so you are led to believe by the advertising.
“Miracle” is not as much about the team as it is about Herb Brooks. Kurt Russell does a magnificent job of embodying this coach who does all he can to push these young men to be the best. There are few speeches from this coach, for that is not his way. In fact, there is really only one: the night before the contest with the Russians at Lake Placid. This speech should become as memorable as the “Win one for the Gipper” speech in “Knute Rockne: All American.”
But the focus on Brooks does little to give us an understanding of the individuals on the team. Team is the core of Brooks’ philosophy. He preached “the team” as central and not having the one star that can carry the group. This movie thus fails as it relates to Brooks’ belief; we see and know little of the team, which is nothing more than a pawn in service to the movie.
“Miracle” does have one thing going for it, though. It does take you back to the time in which that team shocked the world. “Miracle” will pull you into the world of 1980—and a nation’s need of something to cheer for (without being jingoistic).
It merely tells the story of one of the greatest moments in sports history. This is a story that is compelling, in spite of some of its failings.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG for language and some rough sports action. Characters use a few adult words and do some hard body-checking on the ice.
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Writer: Eric Guggenheim
Cast: Herb Brooks: Kurt Russell; Jim Craig: Eddie Cahill; Jack O’Callahan: Michael Mantenuto; Mike Eruzione: Patrick O’Brien Dempsey; Ralph Cox: Kenneth Mitchell; Rob McClanahan: Nathan West; Craig Patrick: Noah Emmerich; Mrs. Brooks: Patricia Clarkson.
The movie’s Web site is here.