Saturday 11 August 2007

Movie Review: The Rocket (2006)

Maurice "The Rocket" Richard joins the Montreal Canadiens hockey team as a kid, and grows to be one of the most influential players in the history of the game, both on and off the ice.

One of the more ambitious Canadian made films, The Rocket works on many levels: as a story of a man gradually growing into his talent to assume the leadership role that destiny entrusted him with; as the story of the re-awakening of pride in the french identity of Quebec; and as a terrific look back at the early days of the "original six" in the National Hockey League (NHL).

Roy Dupuis, the actor portraying The Rocket, does not display too many emotions in the film. He is mostly portraying stoic manhood in the face of on-ice opponents and an anti-Quebec off-ice NHL culture. Dupuis does the job admirably, but it would have been interesting to delve a bit deeper and more frequently into more varied emotions.

The portrayal of the NHL in the 1940s and 1950s appears genuine. The atmosphere in the hockey rinks, dressing rooms, back-rooms and on the trains is smoke drenched, masculine, chaotic, and sweaty. The film is great in re-creating an era when entire large cities could get caught-up in the euphoria of a single game. The film also presents the reality of the days when sports heroes received very little glory outside the sports arena, and carried on with modest family lives without any of the trappings and lavishness that we associate with modern sports stars.

The film's examination of french / english rivalry and conflict, both within the NHL and within the larger surrounding society, is subtle, touching, and sensitive. One of the most potent scenes in the film occurs when the anglophone Montreal coach reaches out to his Quebec players in the post-game Canadiens dressing room, after the Rocket begins to assume a visible role as critic of the status quo.

Technically, the movie is a pleasure to watch, with classy sets, costumes, music, and very capable supporting performances.

For fans of hockey and the National Hockey League, and all those who enjoy social commentary through the lens of sports, The Rocket is a worthwhile movie.

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