Without Limits (1998)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Sports Drama, Biopic [feature]  |   Release Date - Sep 11, 1998 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 118 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Without Limits is a return to familiar territory for screenwriter Robert Towne, whose directorial debut, Personal Best (1982), also focused on Olympic athletes. Towne makes his third stab at directing, with engaging if unspectacular results, successfully translating the love of the sport but unable to make it contagious. Produced by Tom Cruise, Without Limits failed to beat Prefontaine -- the competing version of the story directed by Steve James and starring Jared Leto -- to the multiplexes. But neither film made much of an impact on an audience generally unfamiliar with the exceptional distance runner, who was killed in a car accident at age 24. The 25th anniversary of the Munich Olympics seems to be the peg for the sudden renewed interest in Prefontaine, but his story is not quite compelling enough to speak to audiences beyond his group of worshippers, who will no doubt be satisfied with this project. Billy Crudup exudes effortless charisma as the mercurial athlete, and Monica Potter glows as his girlfriend. Donald Sutherland also has fun with eccentric coach and mentor Bill Bowerman, but what's even more fun is learning about the origins of the Nike shoe company, which Bowerman founded alongside magnate Phil Knight. For example, the prototype for Bowerman's revolutionary "waffle" sole design was indeed cooked up in his waffle iron. These and other details make Without Limits a likable biopic, but it's too middle of the road to make a lasting impression outside of distance-running circles.