The Brighton Miracle (PG, 77 minutes) Directed by Max Mannix * ½
September 19, 2015.
It was a result described by some as an example of the “glorious uncertainty” of sport and Springbok legend Joel Stransky as a “sport disaster”.
A time when the team with the best Rugby World Cup record at the time was beaten by a country that had only won one game in 24 attempts. As Stransky puts it, “in other sports these upheavals are happening – in Rugby Union they don’t”.
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Japan’s incredible and inspiring 38-35 victory at Brighton Community Stadium has all the tricks of a great documentary or Invictus– drama style, unfortunately The Brighton Miracle is neither.
Instead, it’s a bumpy, uncomfortable hybrid of the two, neither fish nor poultry, incredibly light in terms of detailed upkeeps and horribly awkward to bring the Braves’ incredible transformation against the grain to life. Blossoms by Australian-born trainer Eddie Jones. a team that won three of their four matches in the 2015 tournament. Heck, he can’t even do the math correctly, claiming the country was beaten by the All Blacks by “145 points” in the 1995 tournament (forgetting apparently to subtract the 17 points they scored in response).
It is an outcome, as this story told keeps reminding us, that has haunted the Japanese Rugby Federation for two decades (even during our long dark period between Rugby World Cup victories, attention has been drawn to is focused on more than one failure).
As Miracle opens, their latest attempt to turn the tide is to hire half-Japanese Jones, a World Cup-winning assistant coach with the South Africans in 2007 (something completely ignored in the film) to over three years of the 2015 tournament.
Performed with a permanent Jake the Muss / Jango Fett frown and no Aussie accent, by a deeply disappointing Temuera Morrison (the real Jones looks much more avuncular and charming), we see the ‘foreign’ trainer repeatedly ruffling feathers and cause ruts, while he tries to distill more professionalism and seriousness in the team.
By installing Kiwi-Fijian Michael Leitch as captain, he demands that his players and officials work hard, as he works 20-hour shifts himself. Wobbly results, injuries and a stroke for Jones threaten to derail his tenure, before the 2015 draw gives him the perfect goal for his players: victory over the Springboks in the opener . By persuading everyone to fall behind an intensive 150 day prep, he is sure that while they will never be “bigger or stronger, they can be fitter and smarter.”
This is a docudrama that makes it look like he spent his entire budget to secure the rights to the game itself. In view of previous efforts to dramatize rugby matches (The kick, Invictus, Old partitions) it’s potentially a smart move, but the recreated Morrison and company press conferences are honestly even more embarrassing.
Stilts and poorly staged, they just feel wrong, like many of the terribly telegraphed dramatic moments on display here. There is a terrible repetition as we see a story told by Leith or Jones in real life immediately replayed on screen, while Jones’ examples of excess (bringing an injured Leitch home after an “urgent meeting” At 11 p.m.) are just laughable when played with Morrison’s signature intensity. And while the real Jones and Leitch provide some interesting information, veteran commentator Gordon Bray is lost and Stransky just seems to be being trolled.
Add a soundtrack drowned in rising ropes and the result is less of a miracle than a criminally misjudged alteration of one of the few outsider stories of our country’s favorite sport.
The Brighton Miracle is now airing on Neon.