“Red Army” (2014)
The Soviet Union Red Army Ice Hockey team was the greatest in the world. The players were the best of the best that the Soviets had, a product of their system where young men at an early age were picked to begin a grueling way of life, playing hockey 11 months out of the year, sometimes training two or three times a day. The men who made the team had grown up together, often playing with the same group of guys for years and years. The team was part of the Army and lived in barracks for most of the year.
The Red Army team destroyed opponents, beating other teams by double digit scores. That’s why it was so unbelievable that the “Miracle on Ice” happened. A US team made up mostly of college kids beating the best team of all time at the 1980 Winter Olympics truly was a miracle.
The film centers around Viacheslav “Slava” Fetisov, probably one of the finest hockey players ever. Slava played for the team in the glory days of the 70s and 80s. He is extensively interviewed in the film, very often taking an almost adversary role to the filmmaker Gabe Polsky, who at times has to prod and poke Slava to get him to open up. There is a hilarious scene at the beginning of the film, where Slava refuses to start the interview because he is texting on his phone. This scene goes on for several minutes as Polsky tries to get Slava to start talking, and Slava just starts cussing him out, shooting him the bird at one point.
The film has some remarkable behind-the-scenes footage, especially of the teams incredible training methods; many were developed specifically for the hockey team. The film touches on the politics of the time, the cold war and the KGB going on their trips abroad to make sure the players didn’t defect. The film does a remarkable job of getting the players to open up and talk about their days on the team. It’s a joy to watch as the players remember the good and the bad times. Slava lays it out on the table as he became a pawn of the system and while other players who were less talented got to start playing in the West (making real money for the first time), Slava was being punished for standing up to the higher ups, not wanting to hand over a major cut of his salary to the government. Slava was and is a man of integrity who is willing to make a stand when he believes in something dearly.
The film is fascinating to watch; My favorite part of the movie is where the players sit down to watch the “Miracle on Ice” game, viewing it in complete silence. It’s a game that most of the players blame their coach for loss. The coach was a man whom most of the men hated, and that loss fueled their hate even more. The players practically spit out the man’s name when they talk about him.
While only 77 minutes in length, the storyline is rich and jam-packed with great stories. The editing is crisp and fast-paced. It’s an incredibly interesting film, even if you aren’t a hockey fan. The film puts the personalities of the player’s front and center, celebrating their accomplishments and discusses their losses. To see these men on ice in the archival footage is a thing of beauty, making pass after pass on the ice as they break down the opposing defense, scoring so quickly it is almost faster than the eye can follow. “Red Army” is a film that is about a team, we will never see the likes of again from a time that has been preserved in this brilliant film. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
“Red Army” is playing exclusively at the UA Tara Cinemas 4
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