Red Army DVD Review

Ice Hockey was more than just a sport to the Soviet Union; it was their symbol of the state of the nation, their paragon of the Cold War. Or so Gabe Polsky tries to demonstrate in his revelatory documentary juxtaposing the communist regime with a hockey team.

This is not a story of any ordinary hockey team though; this is the story of the Red Army Ice Hockey Team, formed in the Soviet Union in the mid-1950’s. The team, with its iconic captain Viacheslav Fetisov, dominated the sport for nearly 40 years, conquering the US and Canadians many times along the way. They were a source of pride on the other side of the Iron Curtain, a national institution that transcended any problems the everyday people of the Soviet countries experienced.

Polsky’s film is instantly fascinating as, through the players, he unlocks a detailed exposé of what happened behind the scenes. Perhaps it is an insight that few were calling for, that of the state of politics and sport in the Soviet Union, but it’s one that few who see this film will regret. The players almost inadvertently divulge information that builds a disparaging account of the corruption and prison like system that existed for the group and the punishments involved for those who stepped out of line, regardless of their success.

Within Polsky’s clean documentary style lives a narrative of conventional good vs. evil. The first Soviet coach who embedded the teams balletic style, Tarasov, is unceremoniously fired from his position after years of success and replaced by a genuine bad guy, Tikhanov. The new man is a brutal dictator, perhaps more suited to the Soviet style and the freedom and happiness of the team is, for the first time, called into question congruously with the lives of the people behind the Iron Curtain.

Tikhanov inadvertently facilitates the team bonding and protection of each other which, for Polsky, results in some fantastic footage of the former players, particularly Fetisov, becoming personal and incredibly honest. Combine this with some striking archive footage and we have an excellent little documentary that few will see but many should.

 

Red Army is released on DVD on 7th December courtesy of Curzon

About The Author

Jonathan went back to university to study Film Journalism in Glasgow in 2012 and hasn't looked back since. Writing for the Edinburgh Internation Film Festival, The Birmingham Review, The Electrolyte Magazine as well as Front Row Reviews he enjoys working across media and if not lambasting folk about politics it's film on his agenda. Working in The Electric Cinema in Birmingham has allowed him to come closer to the medium he loves, his favourite filmmaker is Wong Kar-Wai.

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