Miracle Gavin O'Connor

Miracle Gavin O'Connor
Sceptical critics must surely be forgiven for the presumption that Disney's Miracle couldn't be anything more than a schmaltzy dose of "rah-rah" patriotic nostalgia for what some Americans believe is their greatest achievement in sport. The 1980 men's hockey team's gold medal run during the XIII Olympic Games in Lake Placid is certainly one of the most heralded accomplishments in U.S. sports history. Their semi-final victory over an indomitable Soviet squad is thought to be as significant as Paul Henderson's game winning goal for Canada versus the CCCP in the 1972 Summit Series. Unlike the singular heroics of Henderson during that series however, "the miracle on ice" in Lake Placid is championed for the collective grit of the young, inexperienced group of Americans who overcame tremendous odds in defeating their heavily-favoured Soviet opponents. The figure who came to be recognised most for America's success was their coach, Herb Brooks, the team's visionary architect and spirited leader. Rather than relying on all-stars, Brooks believed that the success of the team rested upon his players' ability to play as a fluid unit with a new style of hockey culled from Soviet and Canadian approaches to the game. In chronicling Brooks's methodology and sticking to the facts of the story, Disney has created a remarkably compelling hockey film with a lot of heart that almost makes up for its Mighty Ducks film franchise. Leading an amazing cast of unknown hockey players-turned-actors, Kurt Russell captures the dynamic Brooks wonderfully, after meeting Brooks before the coach's death in a horrific car crash just as principal photography on the film began in 2003. Such first impressions are lovingly presented in a DVD short, in which Brooks reminisces about the march to gold and the mind games he used to whip his team into shape, both mentally and physically. A "making of" featurette and the DVD's audio commentary offer great insight into Director Gavin O'Connor's commitment to making the most realistic hockey film ever. The short documentaries demonstrate how using close on-ice camera angles help O'Connor and crew recreate game sequences to the letter. Miracle truly is a well-realised, thoroughly remarkable tribute to a wonderful moment in sports history and is surely Hollywood's sincerest testament to the beauty of the sport of hockey. Plus: ESPN Roundtable discussion, outtakes, more. (Disney/Buena Vista)