Prefontaine is a bio-pic of long distance runner Steve Prefontaine that is interesting, but never quite captures his essence. Jared Leto stars as Pre, an unusual runner who suceeds more with sheer will than natural talent. Although not built like a runner, and discouraged at every turn, he broke and held every American distance record between 2000 and 10000 meters. The film chronicles his college career under the tuteledge of coach Bill Bowerman (R. Lee Ermey), his trip to the Munich Olympics, and his years afterward as an amateur athlete. Director Steve James has shown his ability to handle a sports motif before (with the acclaimed Hoop Dreams). However, in Prefontaine, he merely goes by the book, drawing the traditional portrait of a doomed athlete and his unstoppable drive to succeed. The story is told in pseudo-documentary style, with the characters recalling Steve’s career in interviews and flashback. But the technique only serves to distance you from the story…there’s never the essential connection with Prefontaine neccessary to deeply involve you. Jared Leto delivers a good performance as the runner, and makes one wonder what he could have done with a richer storyline. As it is, the by-the-numbers athlete story is interesting, but leaves no lasting impression.
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