Red Army

Director: Gabe Polsky (2015)

Russian sportsmen skate on the thin ice of Cold War politics in this cracking ice hockey documentary.

With drama on an off the rink, it’s an irrepressible combination of huge egos, fabulous action, political power games and private gain.

This film is built around interviews with the charismatic former champion player Viacheslav ‘Slava’ Fetisov.

Hugely rude, arrogant and compelling, he’s also the world’s most decorated ice hockey player.

He’s a shockingly refreshing antidote for anyone who suffers the bland, PR controlled and media-trained offerings of English football’s players and pundits.

The presentation of his achievements is one of many sequences that use humour to hurry the puck of narrative along.

In football terms Slava and his team mates play in a style best described as Total Hockey.

With even my limited exposure to or understanding of the game, the footage is as exciting and demanding as any sport I’ve seen.

Like many players Slava was specifically drafted to be eligible for the army team, it formed the vanguard of the USSR’s propaganda wing.

This relationship between the state and the individual is explored through the prism of Slava’s career, an astonishing accumulation of trophies, teams, air miles and vendettas.

With consummate timing Red Army holds back it’s best shot until the last minute.

For anyone with an interest in sport, history, politics or just wants to admire some really cool cold war kits, this is a brilliant watch.

 

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