Red Army is a really entertaining documentary about the Soviet National Hockey Team or, more specifically, about Slava Fetisov and his fascinating hockey career, as part of a team of hockey players that elevated the sport to its highest grace and beauty, as a state-controlled party spokesperson, as a struggling hockey player in the West and, well, beyond; no spoilers, but Fetisov definitely ends up in a place you won’t expect at movie’s end. The film is a lean 78 minutes and it keeps things moving accordingly. Every section of the film is of great interest. The section dealing with Fetisov’s time as the captain of the Soviet National team is fascinating as it delves into a tight five-man unit, including Fetisov, within the team. Their fascinating relationship both on and off the ice is a through line for the documentary and seeing how these four men function across the years is amazing, particularly in some genuinely breathtaking footage that even a hockey neophyte like myself can appreciate as being breathtaking in its grace, precision and speed. The documentary seems to argue that these men played the best hockey in the history of the sport and this footage will have you believing it. But off the ice, the Soviet government exercised iron control over these players; there’s an incredibly entertaining interview with an ex-KGB agent who was tasked back in the eighties with keeping Fetisov from defecting and parts of this section of the film seem rife for dramatization as a spy film with one defection in particular playing out in a really dramatic way. Then comes the journey to the west and the strange fate of Russian hockey players who find themselves the target of racism and distrust within their new professional teams and find themselves faced with an entirely different kind of hockey as well, a rougher, more violent, less coordinated kind of hockey that leaves many of the greatest players the game has ever seen absolutely floundering. And then there’s more, but really, just go see this movie. I found it fascinating and consistently entertaining. Polsky has a more interesting eye than you might think and the way he works in modern interviews, archival footage and computerized graphics is quite striking. Anyway, I really loved this and at less than eighty minutes, it’s more than worth your time. 4 stars.
tl;dr – fascinating documentary examines hockey under the Soviet Union and even non-sports fans will find themselves swept up in the drama of the players and the strange times. 4 stars.