Without Limits (1998)

The second of the late 1990s biopics of James Dean–ish track star Steve Prefontaine, made by impassioned screenwriter Robert Towne and starring Billy Crudup as the golden boy who broke loads of records but failed to win any medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and died tragically in a highway wreck at

Cover of "Without Limits"
Cover of Without Limits

age twenty-four. Towne tries to wax philosophical, imagining the debate between coach Bill Bowerman (Donald Sutherland) and Prefontaine to be a struggle between goal-oriented reason (win) and Ayn Rand–ish individualism (run), but the cloud of preordained doom hangs heavily over the action. What makes Prefontaine a worthy subject is somewhat mysterious; he didn’t place at the Olympics (somehow, the kidnapping of the Israeli track team is supposed to have spoiled his chances), and when all the eulogies are said and done, you can’t be blamed for thinking that all that time and energy would’ve been more fruitfully spent tracking the travails of the Finnish cop who did win.

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