Monday, June 24, 2013

Miracle (2004)

Directed by Gavin O'Connor 

Cast: Kurt Russell (1), Patricia Clarkson (2), Noah Emmerich (3), Eddie Cahill (4), Nathan West (5), and Kenneth Mitchell (6)

(Watch the trailer)

My favourite quote - "Two days later, miracle was made complete. My boys defeated Finland to win the gold medal. Coming from behind once again. As I watched them out there, celebrating on the ice, I realised that Patti had been right. It was a lot more than a hockey game. Not just for those who watched it, but for those who played it. I've often been asked in the years since Lake Placid, 'What was the best moment for me?'. Well, it was here. The sight of 20 young men of such different backgrounds now standing as one. Young men willing to sacrifice so much of themselves, all for an unknown. A few years later, the US began using professional athletes at the games. Dream teams. I always find that term ironic. Because now that we have dream teams, we seldom ever get to dream. But on 1 weekend, as America and the world watched, a group of remarkable young men gave the nation what it needed the most, a chance for 1 night, not only to dream, but a chance once again to believe."

Did You Know? - According to Captain Mike Eruzione, coming into the dressing room in the second intermission, Brooks turned to his players, looked at them and said, "If you lose this game, you'll take it to your fucking graves." He then paused, took a few steps, turned again, said,"Your fucking graves," and walked out. Actor Eddie Cahill who plays his childhood hero Jim Craig in the film plays hockey leisurely but never played the position of goalie prior to the film.

Herb: 26 names. Tough part would be getting it down to 20 before the opening ceremonies.

Craig: This is the final roster? You're kidding me right? This is our first day Herb, we got a week of this. And what about the advisory staff? Aren't they supposed to have a say in this?
Herb: Technically that's all.
Craig: You're missing some of the best players.
Herb: I'm not looking for the best players Craig, I'm looking for the right ones.

Recently, I helped out with my friends' project First XI. The football trials, which lasted for 3 whole days, seemed like a massive undertaking for us as we were pretty short handed. But in the first part of the film, when Kurt Russell's Herb Brooks was scouting for players, it really reminded me of the First XI trials. I particularly liked what Herb said to Craig, "I'm not looking for the best players Craig, I'm looking for the right ones."

In my archery days, I wasn't the best archer. So I had to work very hard for my spot on the national youth training team. I trained almost every day after school and on weekends. I sacrificed a lot of time to train. Time I could have spent with my friends and family instead of sweating it out at the range. I guess that's what Herb meant by "looking for the right ones" instead of the best players. Because more than skill, to excel in any sport, you have to have the right attitude. This is even more so for team sports.

Herb: Well how 'bout it boys? Look like hockey to you? More like a couple of monkeys trying to hump a football to me. I don't know. What do you think Craig?

Craig: Yeah.
Herb: You want to settle old scores you're on the wrong team. We move forward starting right now. We start becoming a team right now. Skating, passing, flow, creativity, that is what this team is all about gentlemen. Not old rivalries. So? Why don't we start with some introductions. You know, get to know each other a little bit. Where you're from, who you are, go ahead.
Rob: Rob McClanahan. St Paul, Minnesota. 
Herb: Who do you play for?
Rob: For you here at the U.
Herb: Jack?
Jack: Jack O'Callahan. Charlestown, Mass. Boston University.
Herb: Over here.
Ralph: Er... I'm Ralph Cox. I'm from wherever's not gonna get me hit.
Herb: Very good.

If your team doesn't put aside their ego and their own personal agenda, they'll never be able to rise to the challenge and be the best team that they can be. But that's the beauty of a team sport isn't it? The cohesiveness of a team is what makes a great team. It makes training much easier if you already enjoy working with your team mates. 

Over the course of the film, from strangers, the players become more than just a team. They become a family. 

"I'm sorry we didn't talk. And I was wrong not to ask. So I'm asking now if you, you know, if you can be with me on this because it won't mean anything if you're not."

- Herb Brooks

Behind every successful man is a woman. Well, actually what it's trying to say is that if you don't have a good support system, it's much harder to concentrate on what you're doing, so it's a little harder to achieve greatness. 

When I was working on the program Sports@SG, I helped interview a number of athletes for the show. And a lot of them were pretty young. So in order to travel to trainings and to pay for sports equipment, they all had to have very supportive parents and siblings. But likewise, they also all felt that achieving all the medals in the world wouldn't mean much if not for their family being there for them and sharing their joy in their achievement. 

It's the same for goalie Jim Craig, who wants to play for the US Olympic team because it was his mother's dream for him to be a part of the team. On the topic of Jim Craig, I discovered the film Miracle because I was looking up Eddie Cahill on Wikipedia. Eddie Cahill plays goalie Jim Craig in the film but I first noticed him in CSI: NY. So when I realised Miracle was about the US Men's team for the 1980 Winter Olympics, I immediately wanted to watch the film. So I did.

And I love it! I was already inclined to like it because it was about my favourite team sport anyway, but I didn't think I was going to enjoy it as much as I did. I was there every step of the way. I 
fist pumped and cheered along with the crowd every time the team scored a goal during the much-talked about game with the Soviets. It was like I was there, watching them make this miracle on ice happen. For real. 

"You better think about something else, each and everyone of you. When you pull on that jersey, you represent yourself and your team mates. And the name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back. Get that through your head!"

- Herb Brooks

"Win, lose, or tie, you're gonna play like champions!"

- Herb Brooks

"This cannot be a team of common men. Because common men go nowhere. You have to be uncommon."

- Herb Brooks

One of my favourite scenes with awesome lines from coach Herb Brooks was after the team played a friendly match with the Norwegians and tied them. During the game the players on the bench were not watching the game while their team mates were playing on the ice. Instead they were talking about the girls they could see across from where they were sitting. After they tied the game, Herb made them stay back to do drills and that's when he gave them all a piece of his mind. But that was also the turning point for them as well. They all finally got it. They understood the stakes and the importance of what they are training for. And I love the look on the assistant coach's face when he too finally understood what Herb was trying to drill into their heads.

Mike: Mike Eruzione. Winthrop, Massachusetts. 

Herb: Who do you play for?
Mike: I play for the United States of America. 
Herb: That's all gentlemen.

And that's what he was waiting for. That ended the drills he made them do over and over again. Before this, they didn't realise that they were a team, Team USA. And to be a team was to realise that this was bigger than any single one of them. 

In D2: The Mighty Ducks, another Disney ice hockey feature film, Coach Bombay did something similar to remind them that although they were from different parts of America, they were one Team USA.

Herb: This better take about 2 minutes.

Jack: This is crazy Herb, bringing him in this late.
Rob: We got parents buying tickets and they're getting rooms. I mean what are we supposed to tell 'em?
Jack: With one of us going home as it is.
Herb: Ahh... I guess I don't have to ask where you stand on this huh Rizzo.  
Mark: This wasn't Rizzo's idea. 
Mike: You want me to say I'm scared of getting cut? I'm scared of getting cut. Everybody is. 
Jack: We just want it to be fair Herb.
Herb: Don't even try telling me that. He was right there at Colorado.
Mike: That was 6 months ago!
Herb: Oh you don't think he's been playing for the last 6 months?
Mike: Not with us he hasn't.
Herb: So?
Mike: So there's a difference.
Herb: Like hell there is! All I know is that kid can flat out play.
Jack: What and we can't?
Herb: Well he moves the puck, he's got great vision on the ice, stick, soft hands...
Rob: That's not the point.
Herb: I'll tell you something else he's got. He's got the attitude I want on or off the ice so somebody here better explain to me why I shouldn't be giving him a hell of a look.
Mark: Because we're a family. 
Herb: What?
Mark: We're a family. 
Herb: A family?
Mark: Yeah.
All: Yeah.
Herb: And this is the family that you want to go to Lake Placid with?
Jack: Definitely.
Mike: Yeah, without a doubt.
Mark: Absolutely.
Rob: Wouldn't have it any other way.
Herb: Timmy here can help us boys and I'm gonna send him home. We got 1 more to get down to 20. Do you understand?
All: Yeah.
Craig: Looks like you got yourself a team.
Herb: Almost.

Earlier I mentioned that the players eventually became a family. Coach Herb Brooks brought in a new player who had not been training with them from the start. Maybe it was a test. Maybe it wasn't. You'd have to ask the man himself for that answer. But I get the feeling it was a test. In the words of the doc, "Herb has a reason for everything he does", and I think the reason for bringing a new player was all part of a plan. If the player bonded well with the team and played well, he'd win. If the player was ostracized and in return it made the team realise that they had become more than just individual players, he'd win. And I think it was a gamble worth taking. And he didn't lose. 

Patti: Herb, there's no disgrace in losing to this team. The important thing is you got this far.

Herb: Important though, is those 20 boys knowing that in 20 years they didn't leave anything on the table. They played their hearts out. That's the important thing. 

Although at such a level as the Olympics, I'm sure winning is important. But I think that more than winning, it's important to do your best. Herb Brooks told the boys during the drill that "win, lose, or tie, you're gonna play like champions." I agree with him. The most important thing is that the boys "played their hearts out" and gave it their all. Only then will they not live with any regrets.

"Great moments are born from great opportunity. And that's what you have tonight. That's what you earned here tonight. One game. If we played them 10 times, they might win 9. But not this game. Not tonight. Tonight, we skate with them. Tonight, we stay with them and shut them down because we can. Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players. Everyone of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Their time is done. It's over. I'm sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. Screw 'em. This is your time. Now go out there and take it."

- Herb Brooks

Great speech. This came really close to being my favourite quote of the whole film. However, I liked what Kurt Russell's Herb Brooks narrates at the film more. 

When I was an archer, I can only remember being in the zone once. What do I mean by in the zone? The face off of the 3rd period of the USA-Soviet game portrays it best. The noise from the crowd starts to become muffled and your head is totally in the moment. Everything seems to move at slow motion and all you can think of is visualising the arrow hitting the bull's eye. This was also used in the film Wimbledon. Interestingly, Wimbledon was also in cinemas in 2004 as well. I watched Wimbledon first, so when I saw how director Richard Loncraine portrayed an athlete getting in the zone in the film, I was floored because that was what I experienced that one time I was in the zone. In Miracle, director Gavin O'Cornnor also did the same thing with the 3rd period face off. And I loved it all the same.

Herb: Listen to 'em.

Crowd: U.S.A!
Herb: That's what you've done. Now we've come from behind every game in this tournament so far and we can do it again. We can beat these guys. 
Referee: Come on Herb, get your guys to face off. 
Herb: Everybody in. Who do you play for? 
Team: U.S.A!

In my post with my bucket list #5 is to represent my country in the Olympics. Tough dream to achieve. But why did I put it on my list? Because I want to do my country proud. That is what the team set out to do on the ice with every match they played in the Olympics. They did it for their country. And together, they gave America a miracle on ice. Hopefully one day I can do the same for Singapore.

(1) Kurt Russell has acted in films like Stargate (1994), Forrest Gump (1994), Soldier (1998), Vanilla Sky (2001), Sky High (2005), Poseidon (2006), and The Art Of The Steal (2013). 

(2) Patricia Clarkson has acted in films like Jumanji (1995), The Green Mile (1998), Simply Irresistible (1999), Pieces Of April (2003), Good Night, And Good Luck. (2005), All The King's Men (2006), No Reservations (2007), Lars And The Real Girl (2007), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), easy A (2010), Friends With Benefits (2011), One Day (2011), The East (2013), and The Maze Runner (2014). 

(3) Noah Emmerich currently plays FBI agent Stan Beeman in the television series The Americans but also guest starred in shows like NYPD Blue, Melrose Place, The West Wing, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Monk, and The Walking Dead. He has also acted in films like Last Action Hero (1993), The Truman Show (1998), Frequency (2000), Windtalkers (2002), Cellular (2004), Super 8 (2011), Warrior (2011), and Jane Got A Gun (2014). 

(4) Eddie Cahill played Detective Don Flack on the television series CSI: NY since Season 1 and also played the role of Tag Jones on the show Friends. He also guest starred in shows like Sex And The City, Charmed, Felicity, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Dawson's Creek. He also acted in the film Lords Of Dogtown (2005).

(5) Nathan West has acted in films like D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994), Bring It On (2000), and Forever Strong (2008). He's also guest starred in television shows like The Practice, Chicago Hope, ER, 7th Heaven, Bones, and Grey's Anatomy. 

(6) Kenneth Mitchell played Eric Green in the television series Jericho (2006-2008). He also guest starred in shows like Flashpoint, Ghost Whisperer, Lie To Me, Criminal Minds, The Mentalist, Grimm, and NCIS: Los Angeles. He also acted in the film Home Of The Giants (2006). 

The Eclectic Reviewer thinks... Miracle is a great sporting moment, well shot, well casted, and well told. I cry every time I watch Team USA pull off the final shot that won the game for them. And although I know who puts in a goal at various periods of the game, I still find myself on the edge of my seat, excitedly waiting for the goal. In fact, the more times I watch it, the more I appreciate the beauty of the shots and the way it was choreographed and executed. I liked that they casted quite a number of real hockey players and taught them to act rather than to find actors then taught them to play. Miracle is a film that makes you believe. It makes you believe that with hard work and determination, nothing is impossible. It's about family and teamwork. And most of all, its about passion and making dreams come true. (4.8 of 5)

* Movie Poster from Wikipedia 

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