'Red Army' Profiles How Cold War Played Out On Ice

Jan 23, 2015
Originally published on January 23, 2015 8:14 am
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Catch a ride to the movies and maybe you'll be catching "Red Army." It is a new documentary not about the Soviet military. It is actually the story of one of the most dominant hockey teams in the history of the game, and Kenneth Turan has that review.


SLAVA FETISOV: I was born in the Soviet Union. It was pretty rough - no running water, no toilets. And I got to fish only one day a week. It was Thursday. I was happy kid. I played game. I play hockey.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: That's Slava Fetisov. He not only played hockey, as a defenseman he developed into one of the best the sport had ever seen. The engaging documentary "Red Army" uses his career to focus on what happened to individual lives as the USSR transformed into the Russia of today. Fetisov was 10 when he began his association with the Red Army team. The USSR channeled considerable funds into hockey and other sports like gymnastics because it was felt that athletic success would prove to the world the superiority of the Soviet system. One reason the Red Army team was such a powerhouse was the gifts of his coach, hockey visionary Anatoli Tarasov, an innovator who studied chess and ballet for concepts to pass on to his team. It was Tarasov who envisioned hockey as an art form in which creativity was essential for success. And his teams dazzled the world. However, Tarasov was replaced by a demanding martinet whose heartless coaching alienated the team.


FETISOV: Andrei Khomutov's father was going to die. He came and said can you let me see my father? He said no, you have to get ready for the next game.

TURAN: Fetisov's situation as a star began to change with Glasnost and Perestroika and the gradual end of the Soviet era. The story of how this strong-willed player finally got out of Russia and into the NHL is a complex and fascinating one and director Gabe Polsky's treatment of this material is nothing if not entertaining. Any film involving ice hockey that features trained circus bears playing the game can't be accused of not having a sense of humor.

GREENE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for The Los Angeles Times and for MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.