Review: 'Red Army'


[vc_row][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_column_text disable_pattern="true" align="left" margin_bottom="0"]Throughout the 1960s, '70s and '80s, the Soviet Union national ice hockey team was the best in the world. Despite the heartbreaking Miracle on Ice loss to the United States in 1980, they won six Olympic gold medals over those three decades, along with countless other championships. A national team with that much worldwide success would normally be considered untouchable, and the Soviet team was indeed beloved in the motherland. But the documentary Red Army peeks behind the curtain to examine the dichotomy between a progressive, groundbreaking group of players and their antiquated, debilitating leadership. As the USSR rose to power after World War II, Joseph Stalin and the country's other leaders decided to use hockey as a tool to express Soviet dominance. The Red Army team, as they were called, adopted a pass-heavy, team-friendly style that other countries had never seen before. Their coach, the innovative Anatoli Tarasov, inspired undying commitment rather than demanding it, and allowed his players' free-flowing creativity to win out over more rigid strategies. But this was in direct contradiction to how the USSR operated: harsh, tyrannical, and oppressive of any sort of individuality. And despite the team's win-loss record, or perhaps because of it, failure of any sort was not tolerated.

In sharing this story, director Gabe Polsky smartly broadens his film's focus beyond hockey, touching on geopolitical issues of that era and how the Red Army team represented, and then rebelled against, Soviet interests. His protagonist, Slava Fetisov, arguably the greatest hockey player in Soviet history and the first to be granted a visa to play in the NHL, serves as our navigator through decades of complex internal machinations. Engagingly combative and chock full of natural confidence, he provides the perspective of both a Soviet insider and a world traveler who lived many years away from his homeland's persuasive influence.

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