Red Army - 2014

Gabe Polsky's Red Army does what few if any films have done: provide a real glimpse at the life of Soviet hockey players inside the Iron Curtain. It comes across as the most honest portrayal of the Soviet Union's relationship to hockey, and depicts how dramatically Russian-style hockey changed the sport.

Polsky, through intimate interviews with the famed Russian Five and goalie Vladislav Tretiak, captures such a personal account of the players that audiences feel they've learned something about the players of the historically tight-fisted Soviet organization. Whereas hockey myth-making has portrayed Russian players as robotic, or as self-interested divas, Red Army does well in illustrating the Russian Five and their goaltender as sympathetic individuals with six different points of view.

Vladislav Fetisov, the first Soviet player to play in the NHL, is a star in the film, and Polsky's dynamic with him on camera is a big part of what makes Fetisov's scenes work so well. The director asks Fetisov questions and often the player will not initially answer but only react with a facial expression—moments Polsky uses to splice in visuals and recordings to provide an answer to what Fetisov doesn't say. When he asks Fetisov about the Soviets' disappointing loss to the United States in the 1980 "Miracle On Ice," for instance, no words are necessary. The best moments are when it's "show" rather than "tell."

Red Army illustrates the conflicting approaches to coaching between Anatoly Tarasov and Viktor Tikhonov, the varied personal politics of the players, and it highlights the politics that drive hockey-related decisions in nation-building. Its use of historical footage and ability to tell a compelling, real-life story is unmatched in hockey films.

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