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Without Limits Review

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★★★★

If Billy Crudup's rather unwieldy moniker eventually garners top marquee billing, it will not have been by cynically trading on photogenically clean-cut chops. Thus far, Crudup has seemed steadfastly against the Hollywood pretty-boy route, and appropriately enough, his latest screen incarnation had a habit of bucking all available trends too.

At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, a 21-year-old American athlete registered fourth in the three-mile track discipline, yet ran one of the most astonishing races ever. By this stage, Steve Prefontaine already held a swathe of records between 2,000 and 10,000 metres, and in many cases, his under-19 times stand today. Once he overcame a debilitating bout of depression following his Munich defeat, Prefontaine was widely tipped to tear apart records at the next Games as sure as he would the finishing tape. But he never made it, claimed by a horrific car crash in 1975. This is the story of Prefontaine's rise to rock-star celebrity, as told by friend and fellow athlete Kenny Moore. Perhaps most importantly, it's also the story of his relationship with legendary University Of Oregon coach Bill Bowerman (Sutherland), their shared obsession with lung-bursting, soul-destroying distance events, their violent disagreements over Steve's instinctive tendency to race from the front, and ultimately their partnership which enabled Prefontaine to take on the world, both on and off the track.

And although Chariots Of Fire comparisons aren't altogether relevant, it's difficult to pick a sports film since that offers such complementary levels of entertainment and inspiration. Crudup's Prefontaine is an untethered, clear-eyed loner, clutching aptly at something greater than merely beating the competition, and etching the determination behind the agony of the distance runner. Sutherland is just Sutherland but his trademark turn is the perfect foil for Crudup's charging rebel, and makes a personal, affecting relationship the centre of a story essentially about a bloke flogging himself round a running track.

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