The film follows the life of famous 1970s runner Steve Prefontaine from his youth days in Oregon to Oregon University where he worked with the legendary coach Bill Bowerman, later to Olympics in Munich and his early death ... more »at 24 in a car crash.« less
If you're a runner, this should be in your list of favorites. If you're not an athlete, it probably won't mean much to you.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Brandon B. (brando) Reviewed on 1/6/2009...
This is a great inspiring movie. It is about one of the greatest "if not the greatest" runners in American History (Steve Prefontaine). It takes you through the mind of a determined runner. Who wants nothing less than to be the best. Ultimately though he suffers a tragic fate. If you have never seen this movie, I strongly recommend it to you
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Without Limits vs Prefontaine
John K. Reed | 09/14/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's been a few years since I first saw 'Prefontaine'. I'd seen it several times and I finally saw 'Without Limits' tonight.Prefontaine:Acting
I thought the acting in this movie could have been much better. The principle actors were decent, but it was a long drop off to the secondaries as far as acting talent. I felt Leto was more brash, cocky and arrogant. In comparison to Crudup, it made me feel Pre was this way on many occasions more out of fear or a need to be arrogant, as opposed to true belief in himself. More like a prima donna.Facts
Given that these are movies and not documentaries, I really don't care about the small ones such as how close a race was, etc. But would like to get the truth on the the bigger issues such as personal relationships, how he hurt his foot (there either were witnesses, or there were not), and how directly he was involved in the fight against the AAU. I liked the added details in Munich and his life after Munich, showing his continued successes. These details were great from an informational perspective, but it certainly made the direction seem choppy. Without input from Pre himself, so many aspects of his friendship and love life are skewed by the perspective of the person that is recounting it, and can be questioned in both movies. To observe it is to change it, as they say. I would certainly say if you asked for the story of my uneventful life from 2 different ex-girlfriends, you would probably get 2 completely different stories.Racing
This movie seemed a little shallow in this area. It seemed like all it did to teach the audience about strategy and Pre's abilities was to say, "You are too slow to sprint, so you have to push the pace faster to make the kickers tired". Maybe that is as much detail as the common viewer wants, but I would have liked to have seen more. I thought the race sequences in both films were good. The interviews mixed with tradional story telling might have worked better if the casting had been better. Production quality was not as good as WL.Without Limits -Acting
By FAR the superior movie. Crudup and Sutherland's relationship just felt so much more real. And a million times more mature. You have to question authenticity of course, but their philosophical conflicts truly drive this movie and make the overall product much more mature. Facts
This is not meant to be a documentary, and I can understand having to summarize 3-4 events into 1 event to make an accurate point - whether you are talking about Pre's love life or his races - for the sake of drama or time. I still would have liked to seen at least a few minutes talking about Pre's races after Munich instead of leaving the new viewer to thinking that he only ran 1 meet after Munich, and he died later that night. To me this was a weakness in the film. It left a lot of places where you have to fill in the blanks - such as Bowerman's appointment as Olympic coach, the Pre graduated and was no longer a student, etc. Now that I've seen both films and have a stronger grip on the true facts, skipping these details aren't as big of a deal as they are merely background to what is happening to Pre - as long as you are already aware of them. Racing
In addition to focusing on Pre's relationships, it spent more time on race strategy, introducing other athletes than just Viren, and seemed to engage the sport at a deeper level. As a former competitor, this interested me quite a bit. Prefontaince had more race sequences, but I thought the sound effects in WL were great to create the feel of the race. The tension felt of running in the pack was expertly done, and the acting of Crudup in these sequences was good. I would have liked to see a little more pain on their faces and a little less closed-mouth running. WL did a better job at showing exactly how fast a 63 second quarter is.This movie went out of its way to focus on Pre, Mary, and Bowerman's relationships. This just felt more authentic and mature. I think it is a shame they had to sum up so many of Pre's races - before and after the Olympics - but this was a conscious decision made to embrace Pre's story by showing fewer of his races - which can be felt as redundant in this medium, and humanizing him more. Prefontaine did a great job showing Pre's drive and heart, but I thought WL was more rewarding by showing his struggles with himself and those close to him - which surely must have existed. While both movies showed some sides of Pre that aren't always listed as 'good' characteristics, only in WL did it truly feel like reality. The dialogue in Prefontaine certainly felt more like a Disney movie and combined with delivery, it was all a little contrived.Once again, I felt that Without Limits was more the thinking-man's version of the movie, while Prefontaine did an excellent job with the facts of Pre's racing career and had an emotionally high value throughout the movie. Both raw emotion and embracing a new philosophy can inspire someone, and they both succeed at this. I would probably choose Prefontaine to show to people that do not know Pre's story, but for my own viewing, I would probably watch Without Limits repeatedly to get to the heart of the human story and struggles with philosophy, passion, and desire."
It's not a movie about running nor is it a sports movie
John K. Reed | Harrisburg, PA United States | 03/19/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"as I have read others reviewers comments. This is a movie about life and the challenges we all face as family members, individuals, students, teachers, and members of society. It's about sacrifice and going the distance. It's about following your own heart in the face of opposition. And perhaps most importantly it's about philosophy. Or more accurately it's about the contrasting philosophies of the films two principals. Bill Bowerman (Donald Sutherland) and Steve Prefontaine (Billy Crudup). Each wants to win and each is a master at their own particular craft. But the conflict arises out of each one's definition about what winning really is. And there lies the essence of the story.The film is just flat out entertaining. Particularly the olympic race in Munich is perfectly directed with both staged and actual footing in addtion to being paced so well that I as other reviewers have commented watch the race each time on the edge of my seat hoping for an outcome that I know isn't coming. Not to mention the numerous funny one liners in the film.Crudup and Sutherland are outstanding as opposite sides of the same coin.Outstanding!"
One of the Best Sports Films
Lee | Cincinnati, Ohio | 02/26/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Hollywood has never done sports well. Their movies are usually either cloying, cliched kid flicks or sappy melodramas. "Without Limits" is neither of these. It's a fascinating, exhilarating look at a running legend.Billy Crudup was superb as "Pre". Cool, cocky, with a running style that sent shivers through me. Donald Sutherland gives another first-rate performance as coach Bowerman. Compared to R. Lee Ermey's portrayal in the lesser movie "Prefontaine", watching Sutherland work was like eating filet mignon after beef jerky.The highlight of the film for me was the '72 Munich race. Pure sustained tension. I've seen the film 4 times, I know the outcome, but I nevertheless hop out of my chair every time I see Pre/Crudup break from the pack. Excellent, too, how they deftly spliced in the actual footage.Only two criticisms: the romance was hokey, and there was too much unnecessary fiction woven in (Pre gashed his foot running around a swimming pool, not while having sex upside down, for crying out loud).But because of this movie, I learned that Pre wasn't just a flashy jock who died young. He was a true working class hero in a sport where there weren't many. He had his own running code, which he also applied in life: run all-out, ahead of the pack, all the time.As a runner, "Without Limits" actually inspired me to actually chop seconds off my running times, which is not a bad testament. But I don't think one has to be a runner to like this movie."
An Uplifting Running Film with Universal Appeal
Daniel R. Sanderman | Portland, OR United States | 12/12/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I really enjoy this film and, admittedly, probably for a lot of reasons external to the film itself. I am a distance runner from Oregon. Thus, the legend of Pre is alive and kicking from where I am from. I read his biography as a high school runner and admired his dedication and commitment to a sport I was only just being introduced. Moreover, I have been to Eugene many times, run on "the track," and seen the spot of his untimely death. This film is an inspiring film; if you are a runner, you must see it. It will make you want to get up off the couch and go for an easy ten.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."
Inspirational tribute to Steve Prefontaine
Chris K. Wilson | Dallas, TX United States | 03/23/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's really a shame that director Robert Towne's 1999 film "Without Limits" was not seen by a larger audience. This is an inspirational tribute to the all-too-short life of long distance runner Steve Prefontaine. It is also an admirable film detailing the sport of track and field and the unique athletes who participate in it. There are moments when "Without Limits" is far too conventional, especially when dealing with Prefontaine's depression after the 1972 Munich Olympics. But this is a difficult story to tell, and Towne has done an expert job in weaving Prefontaine's life around the ultimate, bittersweet highlight of his career - his heroic and memorable race at the Olympics.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."