- Actors: Billy Crudup, Donald Sutherland, Monica Potter, Jeremy Sisto, Robert Towne
- Directors: Robert Towne, Jonathan Sanger
- Producers: Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner
- Format: NTSC
- Language: English
- Region: All RegionsAll Regions
- Number of discs: 1
- MPAA Rating:
- Studio: Warner Archives
- Release Date: July 16 2013
- Average Customer Review: 52 customer reviews
- ASIN: B00DX88ISM
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #56,482 in Movies & TV Shows (See Top 100 in Movies & TV Shows)
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Steve Prefontaine was a champion's champion, holder of every American distance running from 2,000 to 10,000 meters. Fans elevated him to rock star status. Athletes were inspired by him. Off the track, officials mired in outdated politics got the point that activist Pre was taking the sport into a new era. The short life and fast times of the fiery Oregon distance runner form a movie that ""belongs in the company of Jim Thorpe - All American and Chariots of Fire"" (Jack Mathews, Newsday). Billy Crudup, uncannily resembling the real-life Pre, and Donald Sutherland, as coach and mentor Bill Bowerman, give strong portrayals of lives aflame with conviction. Infused with track-savvy authenticity by director Robert Towne and his co-writer Kevin Moore (Prefontaine's friend and a former world-class runner), Without Limits comes home a winner.
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I've seen "Prefontaine," the other movie about Pre's life, and I can't say that I was impressed. Some reviewers claim that it is more factual. Perhaps that is the case, but "Prefontaine" is not a well made movie. It also takes on extra baggage that distracts from the story. For example, in one scene they show Pre making snide comments about anti-war protesters. Was Pre a hawk? Did he ever express an opinion about war? I have no idea. But as a college athlete it would have been exceptionally hypocritical to have such an opinion when his status as an athlete allowed him to stay out of the military.
"Without LImits" doesn't get bogged down in these unimportant side issues. Instead, it focuses on Pre's fight against the AAU, the governing track and field organization which was so obviously taking advantage of athletes at the time.
Prefontaine once said, "Most people run a race to see who is fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts." That about sums up the spirit of this movie.
While the movie is great, the DVD is nothing special. I can't figure out why movie studios make great movies like this and then slap them on a DVD with "extras" that include sub-titles at that's it. If there was ever a DVD that should have had extras this one was it - short documentaries on the real Prefontaine, how the movie was filmed, interviews with people who knew Pre, those who were fans at the time, archival footage. This could have been a stupendous DVD with lots of entertaining, educational and inspirational extras. Maybe they'll release an updated version - because this movie deserves it.
The acting in this film is better than in "Prefontaine," the other film documenting Pre's life produced a year before this film came out. Donald Sutherland's performance as Bill Bowerman is extremely moving and endearing. His connection with Pre is that of a father to a son. As far as historical accuracy, many will quibble about the details of Pre's life and relationships, but I am not overly concerned by this fact. As in literature, it is not the job of an author to necessarily render everything according to historical accuracy. Rather, he or she must create memorable characters that move and affect us. This film achieves just that.
While its interest will definitely appeal to those of the athletic (and, in particular, running) community, I believe that its message has a more universal appeal as well. Pre set out to conquer the world and ended up finally conquering himself and coming to peace with that fact. If you're looking for an uplifting, heartwarming story-you've come to the right place.
Having seen both films about this subject released in the same year ("Prefontaine" starring Jared Leto was released before "Without Limits"), I can comfortably say Towne's version is a better realized, more innovative work. The editing and direction during the Olympic race is terrifically exciting, and properly captures the warrior-like nature Prefontaine displayed in that symbolic moment. The scene, which arrives about three-quarters of the way in, will raise goosebumps on your flesh. The filmmaking innovations involved, in which the race becomes as exciting a battle as anything seen in "Rocky," is a tribute to the talents of Towne. He knew what parts of that race needed to be emphasized, just as he knew why it was such a spectacular effort by Prefontaine. Towne's gone on record, of course, as being a huge track and field fan, and his overrated 1982 film "Personal Best" was another fine salute to the sport.
One cannot give enough praise to the performances of Billy Crudup as Prefontaine and Donald Sutherland as his mentor/coach Bill Bowerman (who would go on the create Nike shoes). They bond, forming a father-son relationship that is equally touching and gentle. Their repartee, when Prefontaine first arrives on the University of Oregon campus during the 1960s as a cocky and brash track athlete, is an additional highlight.
In many ways, Prefontaine's interesting life has been simplified by Towne and co-screenwriter Kenny Moore, if only because so much of the man's life was unrealized. Prefontaine's tragic death is haunting because unlimited promise was yet on the horizon for this uniquely American athlete. But Prefontaine's spirit, which inspires people to this very day, and perhaps will forever, has been properly captured in "Without Limits." And that is why this film is an unqualified success.
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