By Chris Nashawaty
January 27, 2015 at 05:00 AM EST

Red Army

  • Movie

If sports are, in fact, a metaphor for war, then it makes sense that one of the most dramatic chapters of the Cold War was played out on ice. Our memories of the U.S.-Soviet hockey rivalry tend to focus on the ”Miracle on Ice,” when a scrappy bunch of American amateurs beat an imposing Russian squad and went on to win gold at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. At the time, that upset seemed to be a vindication of our way of life. Proof that good could triumph over an empire of evil. The truth is, the Soviets dominated the sport for decades. With their superior funding, tireless training, dizzying skating formations, and seemingly robotic drive, they came across like a team of emotionless Ivan Dragos. But thanks to Gabe Polsky’s enthralling new documentary, we finally get to see these athletes for who they really were—it humanizes a group of men who were cast by history in the role of villains. The star of the story is Viacheslav Fetisov, a Communist Bobby Orr, who’s still as prickly as he was in his heyday. While Polsky’s film expertly recounts the political and cultural tensions of the time through archival clips and revealing new interviews, it really comes to life whenever Fetisov is on camera. Occasionally flipping the bird to a line of questioning, Fetisov gets choked up recalling the brotherly bond between his teammates and how they felt like pawns of the state, ripped away from their families for the glory of Mother Russia. Eventually they would all go on to have lucrative second-act careers in the NHL, where they were reunited on the Stanley Cup-winning Red Wings team of the ’90s. It’s one of history’s—and sports’—great ironies that after so many years as hammer-and-sickle heavies, they were ultimately embraced as heroes in, of all places, Detroit. A

Red Army

  • Movie
  • PG
  • 85 minutes
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  • Red Army