Movie Review – Red Army (2014)
This American / Russian documentary traces the successes and failures, and events and activities, of the Soviet Red Army hockey team. It also looks at the hockey team through the political and social lens of the Soviet Union during and after the Cold War era, and describes the impact the Red Army had on its Russian players, on Russian society, and on the hockey world internationally. Interviews focus on Captain Slava Fetisov, along with many other interviews with other players from this highly successful team from the old Soviet Union.
This documentary was a fascinating and enjoyable look into the world of sport in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The connections are made early on between the importance of playing this sport, but that you are doing this to honour, respect, and represent your country. The pressure put on the players is well examined here, and the connections are made between hockey and politics throughout the story. The changing political climate means upheavals in the Soviet hockey program, and how the Soviet leadership deals with its star players. This examination is intriguing, and well shown to the viewers.
The documentary excels when looking at how the team ebbs and flows, and the impacts it has on the players and their families. Although there is not a lot of interviews with family members, instead focusing on hockey players, coaches, and journalists, we still get a strong sense of impacts on people as well as the game and its connections with Soviet politics and culture in the context of the Cold War and the end of the Cold War.
Looking more at the people and emotional side of things, it was very interesting when filmmaker Gabe Polsky asked questions about how the players felt, or the connections and relations between each other and their families. Polsky gets into this with a few of the retired players being interviewed, and interestingly he doesn’t always get a lot of information back. This is unfortunate but may not be surprising, given he was speaking to very masculine figures in the Russian sporting world. What we do learn though on the emotional side and the family side is important though. An unfortunately unanswered question is whether these players reflect back on the issues surrounding how they were treated by the Soviet government, and what their views, opinions, and feelings are today about that?
Overall, this is a wonderful, entertaining, illuminating look into Russian hockey and its impacts on geopolitics during the Cold War era. Definitely a great documentary, not just for sports fans, but for fans of Russian history, Cold War history, and politics.
Overall: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars.