Red Army (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
May 25, 2015 by Dennis Amith
“Red Army” is a magnificent documentary by Gabe Polsky examining the amazing Red Army ice hockey team and what went on behind-the-scenes after the loss against USA at the 1980 Olympics but also what happened to the players on their quest to play in the NHL. Mesmerizing and wonderfully made, “Red Army” is highly recommended!
TITLE: Red Army
FILM RELEASE: 2014
DURATION: 85 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: PG (For Thematic Material and Language)
Release Date: June 9, 2015
Directed by Gabe Polsky
Written by Gabe Polsky
Produced by Gabe Polsky
Executive Producer: Werner Herzog, Liam Satre-Meloy, Jerry Weintraub
Co-Executive Producer: Sean Carey
Music by Christophe Beck, Leo Birenberg
Cinematography by Svetlana Cvetko, Peter Zeitlinger
Edited by Eli B. Despres, Kurt Engfehr
RED ARMY is an inspiring true story about the Cold War played out on the ice rink, and a man who stood up to a powerful system, paving the way for generations of Russians. From Oscar®-nominated and Emmy® award-winning filmmakers, RED ARMY examines the most successful dynasty in sports history: the Red Army hockey team. Told from the perspective of its captain, Slava Fetisov, the story portrays his transformation from national hero to political enemy. With the demise of Communism came the end of the Cold War, as Soviet players began joining the National Hockey League. The film examines how sport mirrors social and cultural movements in Cold War Russia.
For filmmaker Gabe Polsky, as a child of Russian parents and also a hockey player, Gabe originally planned to create a documentary about Russian hockey but also to explore his roots.
What he received is much more than he can ever imagine with his 2014 documentary film “Red Army”. Exploring the Soviet Union’s dominance of ice hockey by the Red Army and the challenging obstacles the players had to face.
And now “Red Army” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
“Red Army” is a film that is told through the eyes of team captain Slava Fetisov and also the players that consisted of the core 5 of the Red Army and a team that was regarded the best in the world.
Joseph Stalin would establish the Red Army Hockey Club to demonstrate Soviet Superiority in order to dominate the West. And for decades, the Red Army Hockey Club dominated ice hockey and would beat every team including Team Canada.
But as the Red Army hockey team coach Tarasov would be punished and fired from the National Team for holding off a game in front of Leonid Brezhnev, the General Secretary of the Soviet Union, this would lead to a new coach hired by the KGB named Viktor Tikhonov, a man who was more volatile, demanding and pushed his players to the limit, but also would punish players extremely and even hit them.
And as the Soviet Union would beat every team they went against and Tikhonov had the best team in the world, things would change in 1979 as the dominating Soviet Union team would be beaten by the United States in the Olympics and would lead to a new Soviet team after all its senior team members were fired.
The five men unit would feature Slava Fetisov, Vladislav Tetriak, Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov and Alexei Kasatonov. The most dominating Soviet Union hockey team that would go on to win the 1984 Olympics, beat the NHL championship teams and other NHL teams and were unbeatable.
But for these five players, the would encounter difficult challenges which included with playing for the NHL and also encountering family tragedy.
“Red Army” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). It’s important to note that as a documentary, you are getting various sources for video. Modern digital video footage, archived news footage but also home video footage. For the most part, the film looks very good in HD and the fact that Gabe Polsky was able to obtain this much intimate footage of the players is amazing!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Red Army” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film is primarily dialogue driven, so a lot will be coming from the center and front channels. There are some scenes with music but for the most part, the film is dialogue driven and the dialogue is crystal clear.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.
“Red Army” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Gabe Polsky and executive producer Werner Herzog.
- Interview with Hockey Legend Scotty Bowman – (16:17) An interview with Scotty Bowman, former Detroit Red Wings Coach and the winningest coach in NHL history.
- Q&A with Director Gabe Polsky and Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul – (52:07) An audio Q&A featuring director Gabe Polsky and US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul discussing the film.
- Toronto International Film Festival Q&A with Director Gabe Polsky – (14:24) A Q&A with Gabe Polksy from TIFF.
- Deleted Scenes – (11:32) Featuring eight deleted scenes from the film.
- Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Red Army”.
The “Red Army” documentary by Gabe Polsky answers a lot of questions that many of us had after America’s thrilling win over the Soviet Union at Lake Place for the 1980 Olympic Games. What exactly happened to the team and were they punished? Were they forcibly retired?
But also giving us interviews with the talented players who were part of that Core 5 that dominated the world in ice hockey and also beating our NHL teams.
I had no idea of the challenges these men faced, especially Slava Fetisov and how he was handled by the Soviet government and what happened to his teammates, after Fetisov was forced to leave the team. The documentary really goes into detail of what happened, when it came to him playing for the NHL but also how Russians became the targets by players in the NHL. But also to see how the Russian players would come to bring much needed energy and finesse to the Detroit Red Wings.
If anything, Gabe Polsky did a wonderful job in his buildup and smooth transition of the various players, their life story and having to see video footage to help corroborate the research.
And because of the unique coverage from archived sources retrieved by Polsky in Russia but also modern footage with interviews with the Core 5, made “Red Army” an amazing documentary.
As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality varies as one can expect from a documentary. You have a lot of archived footage but also plenty of home video footage put together with modern digital video footage, so the quality varies but by no means does the film look bad at all. If anything, anyone who enjoys documentary, should be thrilled of the amount of video footage, Polsky was able to obtain for his film. Lossless audio is primarily dialogue driven and dialogue is crystal clear.
“Red Army” also comes with a good number of special features including commentary, Q&A footage and an interview with hockey legend Scotty Bowman.
Overall, “Red Army” is a magnificent documentary by Gabe Polsky examining the amazing Red Army ice hockey team and what went on behind-the-scenes after the loss against USA at the 1980 Olympics but also what happened to the players on their quest to play in the NHL. Mesmerizing and wonderfully made, “Red Army” is highly recommended!
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