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page created: 4/30/04

Widescreen - 2004 (2004) - Disney (Buena Vista)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsTHX-certified

Miracle Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A-/B

Specs and Features

Disc One - The Film
136 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at ??), keep case packaging, audio commentary (with director Gavin O'Connor, editor John Gilroy and DP Daniel Stoloff), The Making of Miracle featurette (18 mins, 4x3, DD 2.0), THX Optimizer, preview trailers for other Disney titles, animated film-themed menus with sound and music, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 5.1), subtitles: English for the hearing impaired, Closed Captioned

Disc Two - The Extras
From Hockey to Hollywood: Actor's Journeys featurette (28 mins - 4x3, DD 2.0), Miracle ESPN Roundtable with Linda Cohn featurette (41 mins - 4x3, DD 2.0), The Sound of Miracle featurette (10 mins - 4x3, DD 2.0), First Impressions: Herb Brooks with Kurt Russell and the Filmmakers featurette (21 mins - 4x3, DD 2.0), Outtakes video (5 mins - 4x3, DD 2.0), film-themed menus with sound and music

"If we play them ten times, they'll probably win nine. But not tonight. Tonight is our time."

Do you believe in miracles? Well, anyone who watched the 1980 Miracle on Ice does. In the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic games, the underdog U.S. Hockey team took on the heavily favored Soviets. And I mean HEAVILY favored. No one thought the U.S. skaters, a ragtag bunch of guys from places like Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Wisconsin, could even come close. A year before, the Soviets had crushed a team of NHL All Stars in the World Championships, 6-0. Only a week earlier, the same Soviet team had destroyed the Americans 10-3. But on this cold night in February 1980, a miracle happened. Miracle is the story of how that came to be - how those 20 non-professional players came together to believe in themselves, and to believe in the impossible. And more than anything, Miracle is the story of Coach Herb Brooks - the man who didn't put the greatness in his skaters, but pulled it out of them when they needed it most.

The thing that makes Miracle work for me is its authenticity. I grew up in North Dakota and Minnesota, and went to college at Wisconsin. I'll tell you, the guys you see on this team in this film are real hockey players through and through. Their Minnesota and Boston accents are the real deal. I grew up with guys like these. Kurt Russell is amazing as Coach Brooks - right down to his little mannerisms and his attitude. If the player on the real team was left-handed, so too is the guy playing him here. The uniforms are right, the skates are right. When you compare the film footage of the games to the real deal, every movement of the players is correct. It's extraordinary. Let me tell you, hockey is sacred cow stuff back home. And if you're making a movie about the Miracle on Ice, you damned well better get the little stuff right. They did.

Also impressive is the way the film places the 1980 Olympic games in historical context. You understand why the Miracle was so important to so many Americans. It was a pretty dark and depressing time in a lot of ways, and this game gave a lot of people hope. The cinematography in this film places you right in the thick of the action. I don't think this sport as ever been captured as accurately in a film as this. You've got the game's original announcer, Al Michaels, recreating the play by play for the film. Every little bit of Miracle rings true. You gotta love that.

The 2.35:1 widescreen video on this DVD is excellent in quality, enhanced for anamorphic displays. Contrast is perfect, colors are accurate and vibrant when appropriate and there's not a lick of edge-enhancement visible. You'll see a bit of film grain, but that's as it should be. The audio is also excellent, in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. It's only really active in terms of rear channel usage during the practice and game footage, but that's exactly when you need it. You'll hear skaters zooming by, ice spraying off their blades, the crowd going wild, and guys calling out to each other all around you. It's a fun surround mix and definitely adds to the authenticity.

The extras on this DVD are very good, if not quite great. Starting on Disc One, you get an 18-minute featurette that looks behind the scenes on the film. It's a more general, HBO First Look type piece, but it features nice footage of the real game, interviews with the real players and footage of Coach Herb Brooks (who died in a car crash shortly after the filming of Miracle) working with Kurt Russell and the crew. There's also a decent audio commentary with the director, editor and DP. Their passion for the material really shows, as they talk both about the real events which inspired them, and the technical effort to recreate the game on film. I would have loved a track with Kurt Russell and the skaters from the film, as well as one with the real players, but such was not to be.

Disc Two delivers more decent extras, starting with a 28-minute piece on how the skaters for the film were found among the ranks of real hockey players, and how they were moulded and trained for their roles in the film. You get a 41-minute ESPN Classic roundtable discussion with Kurt Russell and three of the real players - Mike Erzione, Buzz Schneider and Jim Craig. There are some fun stories told here - it's a good listen. My favorite piece on the disc is a 20-minute video of the real Coach Brooks telling stories to Russell and the filmmakers in pre-production meetings, as they're all trying to get a feel for the material. Brooks talks about having been cut from the 1960 Olympic hockey team, his philosophies of coaching, how he motivated the players, etc. It's really great, and occasionally moving, stuff. Finally, there's a 10-minute featurette on the sound design for the film, and a short video of outtakes and bloopers. I would have loved deleted scenes, but you don't get them here. I would also have loved it if Disney had included the complete 1980 broadcast of the original game - wouldn't that have made sense? Oh well. Most of what you do get on this DVD is very good, and some of it is excellent.

Miracle is a great sports film. It's one that I think is going to remembered easily in the ranks of films like Hoosiers, Rudy, Field of Dreams and The Natural. About the only strike against the film is that, well... pretty much everyone already knows how it ends. But who cares? It's the journey that counts.

So do you believe in miracles? Ask any Cubs or Red Sox fan in the stands on opening day of this year's baseball season. Ask any Vikings fan, or any football fan for that matter, who has seen their team get THIS close so many times. Do I believe in miracles? You bet your ass I do. Bottom line... Miracle is a great film for any sports fan, or anyone, who believes.

Bill Hunt
[email protected]

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