Red Army

Recommended

2015 | 85 minutes | Rated PG

On Gabe Polsky's last day of filming in Moscow, Viacheslav "Slava" Fetisov—a hockey legend and former minister of sports in Russia—finally agreed to an on-camera interview for the documentary Red Army. Polsky had been calling and calling, but the former captain of the Soviet national hockey team said he wasn't interested. At the last minute, Fetisov said he'd give Polsky 15 minutes. The interview lasted five hours. It started out rough. In Red Army's first scene—a marvelous depiction of the awkwardness of interviewing—Fetisov icily ignores the director, stubbornly looking at his phone while Polsky presses him with questions. "I'm busy now," Fetisov says. "I've got some business." Polsky persists, and Fetisov eventually flicks off the camera. But they start talking. The result is a turbulent, hairpin-turn story that uses the hockey team known as Red Army, which was technically part of the Soviet military and won six out of the seven Olympic gold medals awarded from 1964 to1988, as a keyhole to peek at what was happening inside the USSR during the late 1970s and early '80s. Americans who remember those players probably associate them with the "Miracle on Ice" at the 1980 Winter Olympics, when the US team—made up of amateurs and college students—beat the highly trained and heavily favored Soviets. At the time, the victory was taken as a political, and almost metaphysical, affirmation that American capitalism was superior to Soviet socialism. But as Red Army reminds us, the human stories behind big symbolic moments are always more complicated—and often more tragic—than what we see on the highlight reels.

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Film Credits
Director
Gabe Polsky