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What Keith's Watching: Red Army (2014)

I’m not a hockey guy. I understand the game to a point. I’ve been to a couple games and I’ve played NHL on Sega and made a guy’s head bleed. But I wasn’t too sure about Red Army which from a basic understanding was about Russian hockey players. But it’s more than that. It ties in something I know a bit more about – politics.

I don’t think anyone is going to be surprised that the US and Russia didn’t always get along. Especially in the 80s when Russia was dominating the hockey world as an extension of the Cold War. Hockey became very important to Russia. They had the best team in the world and they wanted to keep it that way. What Red Army explores is what that did to the players, particularly the captain, Vyacheslav Fetisov. He is the main storyteller of Red Army.

This is something that Red Army does very well about showing the character of Fetisov. Early on we see him ignoring the interviewer in favor of his phone and he holds up the middle finger when pressed by the interviewer. Initially, you think what a hardass Russian this guy is and he’s a real jerk. But then as you see him tell the story of what happened to him and his journey to the US, one can’t help but feel bad for the guy and feel bad for calling him a jerk.

It’s amazing the way their coach, Viktor Tikhonov, treated his players like soldiers and kept them away from family for months. He controlled them even though they were the biggest celebrities in the Soviet Union. Then to see how much the government tried to continue to control the teammates as they migrated to the NHL. It proves everything I heard about the USSR. Thankfully though, The Russian Five, gets the chance to relive their glory days on the Detroit Red Wings.

Red Army is a documentary worth the time no matter how little you know about the Soviet Union, Cold War politics or hockey. One just needs to know about humanity, friendship, and what it means to be driven.

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