i think steve james (hoop dreams, interrupters, etc.) and i would get along. this is his only feature film, and i can’t say that it’s great filmmaking, but the subject he picked is a good one. the 1972 olympics are probably the most interesting from a storytellers point of view. you have the israeli hostage situation, the russia/usa basketball game, and young steve prefontaine making one of the most daring moves in running history against possibly the greatest distance runner ever (lasse viren). i first saw this race when i was 16 or 17 years old and a runner myself. our coach showed us the 5000m race on vhs and we all kinda thought that prefontaine had a chance when, with three laps to go he made his move toward the front. unfortunately he didn’t have the kick that viren and others had. ultimately, the slow pace is what killed it for him.
the film itself captures all the drama of the 72 olympics and adds the drama of the time politically and socially as well as the pro vs. amateur fight that was really heating up at the time. i don’t think this issue was resolved until the 90s when they finally allowed pros to compete in the olympics and that’s most famously manifested in the dream team which is still the greatest assemblage of athletic talent the world has ever seen (except for christian laettner). it also catches the early days of nike. phil knight isn’t in it, but of course bill bowerman is.
the downfall of the film is in its more human moments. the relationships it portrays never fully work. some of the acting is flawed as well. ultimately, james is a documentarian who wanted to tell the story of someone who interests him, but who had died many years ago. so, you get what this film is. it’s a faux documentary (it’s told after his death with many of the characters narrating their thoughts about prefontaine like they would in a documentary). it’s shot in a cinema verite style as well. i don’t think it’s going to draw the average person in very much, but i’m a fan of prefontaine. he had a great gift and was extremely devoted to it.
so if you like prefontaine and/or steve james it’s worth checking out, otherwise probably not so much. B.