‘Why Can’t We Just Leave it at That?’: Revisiting 2007’s Miracle (Spoilers Ahead)

There is – and your opinion on its source temporarily notwithstanding – some truth to the statement, ‘on Earth, every act is a political act’.

The statement above is from director Zack Snyder’s 2016 feature film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. 

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(from left to right) Star Ben Affleck and director Zack Snyder on the set of their 2016 feature film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (ScreenRant.com Photo and Caption)

Director Gavin O’Connor’s 2007 feature film, Miracle, discusses similar ideas, sans any Kryptonians, including that nearly every act, in the eyes of the wider world, is for political gain (à la Kurt Russell’s Coach Herb Brooks asking his wife, portrayed by Patricia Clarkson, ‘why can’t we just leave it [the hockey match] at that [a hockey match]?‘, as opposed to making it a political anti-Soviet exercise).

Separately, that teams are often built at the expense of their individual members’ aspirations, energies and talents (as shown by Herb’s exhortations that ‘you don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone’  and that, ‘the name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back,’ which lead to, ‘tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world,’ and ‘screw ’em. This is your time. Now, go out there and take it!’ before the semi-final against the Soviet team).

Considering both of the above, it is also implied that overcoming hardship inspires others to do the same (as suggested by the transition from President Carter’s radio address that, ‘we [as a nation] have to stop crying and start sweating’ to Herb’s narration at the end that, ‘but on one weekend, as America and the world watched, a group of remarkable young men gave the nation what it needed most – a chance, for one night, not only to dream, but a chance, once again, to believe’).

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(from left to right) Buena Vista Pictures then-Marketing President, Oren Aviv; Disney President and then-Chief Operating Officer, Robert A. Iger; director Gavin O’Connor; and Disney Studios then-Chairman, Richard Cook pictured at a 2004 event (Lee Celano/GettyImages.com Photo and Caption)

The above being said, the political and public implications of Coach Brooks’ victories against Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Romania and the Soviet Union are clear. The increasing media attention and even the nodded respect of the Soviet coach suggest as much.

Similar to director Jonathan Jakubowicz’ 2016 feature film, Hands of Stone, the accompanying montages and consequences are always present. That film’s timeline from the Panama Canal Zone protests to General Omar Torrijos’ death is mirrored in the buildup from the American team’s 1960 ice hockey victory, sans Herb, to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The idea that teams are built at the expense of their players is shown evenly as Herb’s ways are, visibly, at odds with each player’s style and the implicit family that exists between them.

The process of the team’s struggles with each other and with Herb transition from, ‘you want to settle some old scores, you’re on the wrong team!’ to Patrick O’Brian Demsey’s Eruzione shouting, ‘I play for the United States of America!’ and Herb’s said belief that, ‘tonight we are the greatest hockey team in the world’ .

The implication that overcoming hardship triggers a domino effect of the same is largely implied, nothing more. As suggested by Herb’s epilogue narration and the semi-final commentary that, ‘they’re [the American team] very young, very talented and now they’re beginning to believe’, the team’s win boosted morale nationally and led to the use of professional Dream Teams, but not much else.

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(from left to right) Star Kurt Russell and director Gavin O’Connor at the Los Angeles premiere of 2007’s Miracle (J. Merritt/GettyImages.com Photo and Caption)

Very simplistically, director Gavin O’Connor’s 2007 feature film, Miracle, is a well-paced sports film who’s editing matches its crescendoing tension.

While it has the O’Connor-isms newcomers to the director’s filmography need to know,  it’s still worth revisiting nine years on, its allusions to historical geopolitics notwithstanding.

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(centre-right) Director Gavin O’Connor on the set of 2007’s Miracle (Kino.de Photo and Caption)

Director Gavin O’Connor’s Trademarks in 2007’s Miracle:

  1. Movies set within family units: The film takes place within the improvised family of the US ice hockey team as they prepare for the 1980 Winter Olympics.
  2. A difficult father figure: Herb functions as the team’s de facto father figure, urging them on and keeping them together through struggles.

(Whilst the opinions and observations stated above are, unless stated otherwise, the author’s own, the following sources were used for information: IMDb.com)

The Reverse-Screenwriters’ Club (Spoilers Ensue):

Plot: a university ice hockey coach has to prepare the American ice hockey team for the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Prologue: a montage of archival footage introduces the history of the 1970s.

Act 1: Herb decides to attend the Amateur Hockey Association meeting; Herb decides to return to St Paul, Minnesota.

Act 2: Herb decides to accept the US Olympic committee’s phone call at home; Herb decides to accept their offer to coach the team.

Act 3: Herb decides to begin recruiting players; Herb decides to observe the tryouts from above.

Act 4: Herb decides to receive Craig in the commentators’ box; Herb decides to give Craig his finished roster.

Act 5: Herb decides to address the chosen roster of players; Herb decides to convince Walt of his approach, successfully.

Act 6: Herb decides to begin team practice; Herb decides to keep Craig from intervening in the players’ fight.

Act 7: Herb decides to visit O’Callaghan at his home; Herb decides to ask O’Callaghan about his incomplete test.

Act 8: Herb decides to evaluate the Soviet team’s tactics; Herb decides to ask Patti for her support, successfully.

Act 9: Herb decides to begin the team’s conditioning training; Herb decides to firm his line of players.

Act 10: Herb decides to order the team to practice after the Norway defeat; Herb decides to let them leave.

Act 11: Herb decides to school the team in Soviet tactics; Herb decides to resume the team’s practice.

Act 12: Herb decides to introduce Timmy to the team; Herb decides to discuss the consequences of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan with Walt.

Act 13: Herb decides to confront the team over their Timmy concerns; Herb decides to drop Timmy from the team.

Act 14: Herb decides to celebrate Christmas with Craig and the team; Herb decides to return home.

Act 15: Herb decides to speak to Ralph over the oversize team; Herb decides to let Ralph go.

Act 16: Herb decides to act on Walt’s forewarning of the Soviet match; Herb and the team decide to play the Soviet team in New York City.

Act 17: Herb decides to ask the injured O’Callaghan to stay with the team; Herb decides to confront Jimmy over his performance.

Act 18: Herb and the team decide to assemble in Lake Placid; Herb decides to ask O’Callaghan to wait until he’s healed.

Act 19: Herb decides to address the team between their Sweden match; Herb decides to provoke them into playing, successfully.

Act 20: Herb decides to speak to Walt, post-Czechoslovakia win; Herb decides to keep the media from interviewing the team.

Act 21: Herb decides to meet Patti in Lake Placid; Herb decides to return to prepare for the match.

Act 22: Herb decides to address the team pre-game; Herb decides to order the team out to the rink.

Act 23: Herb decides to withdraw the injured Craig from the game; Herb decides to send Janaszak instead.

Act 24: Herb decides to address the team mid-game; Herb decides to send them back out.

Act 25: Herb decides to rush out of the rink, post-victory; Herb decides to celebrate privately.

Epilogue: Herb narrates the US team’s victory over Finland and the Winter Olympics awards ceremony.

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