Red Army

Poster for documetary Red Army at Cannes Film festival 2014.jpg

The story of the Soviet Union’s famed Red Army hockey team through the eyes of its players.

Red Army’ is an excellent documentary about the dominant U.S.S.R. Ice Hockey team of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Using a combination of interviews, live footage and soundbites from the era, the film takes us on a journey through the Cold War era Soviet Union to try to explain how the Ice Hockey team became hugely successful, built on a regimented unity that mirrored the communist political ethos throughout the nation. The film excels in the contrasts it draws between the styles of the Soviet team and their western competitors, with the Soviet’s focusing on team unity and the Western sides focusing more on individual skill and flair, which presents an interesting comparison with the respective political situations in their countries. The documentary goes through several key moments in the rivalry between the nations, where the political climate led to the Olympic encounters being more than mere sporting rivalry.

The interviews are particularly interesting as many of the contributors are fairly hostile to the interviewers, still reluctant to discuss the Soviet’s past more than 20 years after the country broke up. Our main viewpoint is Viacheslav Fetisov, one of the key players throughout the team’s success, and he provides valuable insight whilst dodging several questions (he now works as a sporting advisor to Vladimir Putin’s government, which may explain his lack of candour in some instances). The clash in styles manifests itself in a different way at club level once Soviet players were allowed to move abroad and play in the lucrative NHL. The focus on individuality in the NHL meant that many of the Soviet players struggled to perform to the levels expected of them when they signed. A later experiment by the Detroit Red Wings to create a team built around the Soviet setup had moderate success, presenting an interesting sidebar on different tactical styles in Ice Hockey.

Overall, ‘Red Army’ is a terrific sports movie with an intriguing political edge, and I highly recommend it.

Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Gabe Polsky

Starring: Viacheslav Fetisov

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