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Posted by Aaron West, 3/8/04

Directed by Gavin O'Connor
Starring Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson, Noah Emmerich
Running Time: 136 minutes

"This is more than a hockey game to a lot of people." Patty Brooks, played by Patricia Clarkson, says these words to her husband Herb, on the eve of the medal matchup between the United States and the Soviet Union. Miracle is a lot more than a hockey movie to a lot of people, and it successfully captures not only the suspense of a close contest, but also the spirit of a time. This makes Miracle more than just a sports movie for sports fans, but a film that everyone can appreciate.

Miracle is the story of the United States' Hockey Team during the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) devises a strategy that he feels could allow the U.S. to compete against the best hockey team in the world at that time, the Soviet National Team. Miracle is the story of his team, 20 youngsters who had never played together before, and how they made it to the Medal Round of the Olympics.

Few pictures are able to capture a time. Even fewer are able to do so by using sports as the focus. Last year's Seabiscuit was somewhat successful. This year's Miracle is completely successful. Gavin O'Connor captures the volatility, the tension, and even the fear of 1980, and he presents this hockey challenge as a battle between the two powers, which is exactly what it was for a lot of people.

Kurt Russell gives the performance of his life as Herb Brooks. He nails the sternness, toughness and gritiness, but he also shows the human side. The man who failed once, and wants to make up for it; the man who cares for his wife, but cannot give up his dream; the man who will stop at nothing in order to win.

The filmmakers could have easily trimmed 30 minutes off the film, but it's a good thing they didn't. Probably the first scenes to be cut would be the practice and training sequences, all of which belong in this film. A lot of directors would have been tempted to give us a film under 2 hours. O'Connor deserves credit for giving us the entire package, by showing what the team went through, and how the family bond is created. This pays off later, during the intense action scenes and rousing finale.

Miracle has some of the most suspenseful sports sequences I have ever seen in film. This is even more impressive considering I knew who was going to win. In fact, I've known about the game for over 20 years, but I still was on the edge of the my seat. Credit has to be given to the editors for creating some beautiful tension.

Miracle might not have the polish or be a technical wonder, like the aforementioned Seabiscuit, but it has all the heart and then some. It appeals to our patriotic spirit and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with that. It will be remembered as one of the great sports movies, and it deserves such status.

Score: 7/10