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There’s little room for surprise in Miracle, a historically accurate retelling of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team’s staggering win against the Soviet Union and subsequent grabbing of the gold. But even if the movie’s feel-good ending may not shock you, Kurt Russell’s portrayal of team coach Herb Brooks sure will. It takes more than bad hair and worse suits to personify a ’70s-era hockey coach, though Russell inauspiciously dons both. And when he first opens his mouth to reveal Brooks’ accent, you may think things have gone horribly wrong—until you realize that it’s merely a special blend of Minnesotan and Canadian. Indeed, Russell perfectly adapts all the mannerisms of the seemingly joyless coach, from the sharp gaze of his beady little eyes to his low-boil restlessness behind the bench. But despite Russell’s on-target performance, Miracle often shoots wide. The script, by first-time writer Eric Guggenheim, doesn’t always let us in on the motives behind Brooks’ highly disciplined madness—most brutally demonstrated in a scene in which he punishes the team for losing a game by keeping the exhausted players on the ice until well after the auditorium lights go out. Likewise, a subplot regarding the neglect the coach’s wife (Patricia Clarkson) feels while he devotes himself to training feels undernourished, and the gelling of the young team (portrayed, with the exception of Friends guest star Eddie Cahill, by amateur players) is forced enough to include a Christmas frolic in the snow. The great pains taken to set up the bleak political mind-set of the time, though thorough, also help to make Miracle’s first hour a long one. But the payoff is sufficiently thrilling: On ice, the action moves at lightning speed, so accurately simulating a real game that you might not even realize you’re looking at nothing but legs most of the time. Once the team starts winning, each game is full of suspense, and the careful depiction of last-ditch strategies such as pulling a goaltender to gain an extra skater will have even nonfans holding their breath. Miracle’s steady improvement mimics Team USA’s own, and in the end both are playing their best finesse games. —Tricia Olszewski