Gabe Polsky’s retrospective of the Soviet Union’s rink dominance from the late 1970s right up until the state’s demise in the early ‘90s is a real reflection of the rise and fall of one of the most notorious dictatorships in history and how ice hockey became a kingpin in the USSR’s ambitions.
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Told through one of the most decorated players in the history of the sport, Slava Fetisov, Polsky’s 76-minute documentary lives through the experiences of its subject who first revelled in and then rebelled against the politicians who established the Soviet’s hockey programme.
Fetisov was Stalin’s poster-boy before being hung out to dry for appearing to have bitten the hand that fed in pursuit of a career in North America.
Our historian has a remarkable presence. One founded on two Winter Olympic and seven World Championship gold medals as well as two Stanley Cup titles.
Add to that a variety of ‘Order of’ honours and a place in the NHL’s Hall of Fame and his charisma is explained with the ease in which he recounts this story.
The lengths to which Stalin and his government went to ensure success on the world stage is remarkable, the results undeniable. To have insight into how this was guaranteed is even more fascinating.
Poignant, fun and well informed, Polsky means this film easily transcends the world of sport.
It is an utter triumph in sports biopic film-making and is a guaranteed winner thanks largely to Fetisov’s star turn, but also the array of archive footage.
Some of the main protagonists are missing but their reasoning only makes the film more fascinating.
Late coach Viktor Tikhonov is the most notable absent party and his thoughts on the fractured relationship between players and coach and his relationship with the Stalin government would have made for fascinating viewing.
VERDICT – 8/10
One of the best sports documentaries produced in recent memory, this is a must watch for anyone looking to gain a further understanding of one of the most iconic eras in history.
The DVD is currently not available to buy.
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