TIFF 2014 Review: Red Army
Slava Fetisov will talk to you when he’s good and ready. The hockey legend, from Soviet hero to outcast to American player to Russian politician, has certainly earned it.
The story of this massively accomplished and lauded star forms the backbone of Red Army, Gabe Polsky’s fascinating documentary detailing the rise and fall of Soviet hockey. Success in hockey meant affirmation of their political and social beliefs; Fetisov and his starring line were the faces of the team, the Red Army.
Fetisov explains, matter of factly, that he and his comrades faced intense pressure and scrutiny, training 11 months out of the year, given no choice but to win. And they did, because they were that great. The one time they lost, it didn’t bode well for the coach.
So entered a new leader, a totalitarian force by the name of Viktor Tikhonov, a KGB agent appointed to this position and a man who declined to be interviewed for the film – it’s easy to see why.
Fetisov would go on to become a political pawn as the NHL started courting Soviet players. While most charming and revealing, reflecting on the past sees Fetisov troublingly recalling political pressure placed on him and his wife.
Moreover, Polsky talks to two members of his famous fivesome, both of whom disclose with heightened emotion rigors and tense relationships. These intimate moments are punctuated by startling comments from an ex-KGB agent and some humorous words from Fetisov himself. And of course hockey; expertly played hockey.