"Running to Beat the Naysayers"
What You Need To Know:
Photographed with appealing camerawork in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest, PREFONTAINE focuses on one man’s campaign to overcome personal obstacles in his drive for recognition. It is the saga of "Everyman", diligently pursuing and achieving lofty goals, and succeeding against great odds while pleasing the crowds. While an inspiring athlete, Steve Prefontaine does not call on God’s help. Philippians 3:14 tells us that a Christian “presses on to win the prize for which God has called him heavenward in Christ Jesus.” This movie contains a few obscenities and a pagan worldview
(Ro, L, S, A) Romantic worldview of man seeking own glory, with moral elements of discipline, training and focus; 4 obscenities; 2 scenes of implied sex; upper male nudity; and alcohol use
In 1981, CHARIOTS OF FIRE told the world the inspiring story of an athlete who ran track for the glory of God. Now PREFONTAINE, played by Jared Leto, chronicles the true story of University of Oregon track star, Steve Prefontaine, who exhibits extraordinary determination to run track for his own personal glory.
“We can’t let a losing mentality creep in,” exclaims Pre, as his friends call him, to his girlfriend Elaine (Laurel Holloman) just after she helps him move into a University of Oregon dorm room. He adds that people have tried to make him give up his dreams for years. Even the Coos Bay high school football team coach put him down as 4’8” tall with “shaky hand-eye coordination.” He admits to Elaine that he has no great stride and no long legs.
So Pre seeks to exploit the only physical asset he can: sheer determination. In a visually exciting opening sequence, Pre throws a football during long-distance running practice. In the scene after that decisive moment, a somnolent Pre slaps a ringing alarm clock and jogs into the lush Oregon countryside, practicing his running with great discipline.
Of course, it takes a great coach to elicit champion performances from a runner. In PREFONTAINE, Pre seeks out the eccentric University of Oregon Coach Bill Bowerman (R. Lee Ermey), a gruff former Marine drill instructor, who provides comic relief with amusing antics such as rigging his mail box to blow up when a neighbor knocks it down. Bowerman specializes in making his athletic track shoes by hand, pioneering the use of liquid rubber in his wife’s waffle iron. (Later, the quirky coach starts the successful Nike shoe company with a partner.)
In one of his first encounters with the cocky young running fanatic, Bowerman astutely steers Pre away from the glamorous, but very competitive mile event, and suggests he train for the three-mile event, which he claims Pre can come to dominate. Bowerman is right. Pre pushes himself to “kick harder” than the other runners and goes on to win one NCAA collegiate prize after another. Pre wins 21 straight races with his signature come-from-behind dash to the finish. He baits the press and gains a reputation as a conceited prig who always predicts the loss of his opponents in any race. Pre is usually right: they lose. His supreme self-confidence prevails, to the dismay of his team mates, who think he is a jerk.
“I don’t understand you,” says his Oregon teammate, Mac Wilkins (Brian McGovern), “but now I see that you want to win.” Following a dramatically disappointing finish at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Pre transcends his selfish interests for the first time and takes a politically risky stand against the short-sighted policies of the ATU (Amateur Track Union, a fictitious name). He demands better amateur training facilities and a special track meet in Oregon that would include the world-champion Finnish team.
Shot with appealing camerawork in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest, PREFONTAINE is the story of one man’s determined campaign to overcome obstacles in his drive for recognition on college track teams. Occasionally, the film drags due to the protagonist’s self-congratulatory exclamations, but the dramatic conflicts are authentic enough to keep the audience interested.
The appeal of PREFONTAINE stems from the heroic lengths to which an otherwise ordinary boy pushes himself to gain achievements through hard work and determination. It is the saga of “Everyman” diligently pursuing and achieving lofty goals against great odds while pleasing the crowds. While an inspiring athlete, Steve Prefontaine does not call on God’s help, and so the story remains on the human level. Whereas PREFONTAINE depicts a man striving hard to achieve human goals, Philippians 3:14 tells us that a Christian “presses on to win the prize for which God has called him heavenward in Christ Jesus.”