Without Limits (1998)
American sports movies usually have a saccharine, overly patriotic tone to them that disrupts otherwise fine storylines and characterizations. Robert Towne's Without Limits doesn't go into this trap. It is the second film in two years about the extremely talented American running sensation of the early 70s, Steve Prefontaine, who failed during the 1972 Summer Olympics in München, but was one of the favourites for the 1976 Olympics in Montreal when he died in a car accident in 1975. Writing veteran Robert Towne sits in the directors chair for only the third time and does so conveying the competitiveness without (as too often is done) focusing on the rivalry between opponents as primal hatred. But Without Limits is about more than competing. It has warmth and tenderness to it - mainly through an inspired Donald Sutherland. A performance that next to Billy Crudup's boyish, arrogant Prefontaine gives the film a nice balance and manages to be sentimental without being soppy. Not that Towne doesn't want to hail a hero in the American way, he just keeps a bit more down to earth about it.