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Spirit Catcher

[whitespace] Without Limits
Linda R. Chen

Date with Pre-Destiny: Steve Prefontaine (Billy Crudup) and girlfriend Mary (Monica Potter) inspire in 'Without Limits.'

Runner Steve Prefontaine's inspirational journey is 'Without Limits'

By Karen Reardanz

RUNNER STEVE PREFONTAINE made his mark on the athletic world in the early '70s with his sheer speed, but it was his charm and determination that made him an American hero. In the new film Without Limits, Prefontaine's devotion--dare I say obsession--to his sport is portrayed as a veritable spiritual journey that influenced all aspects of his life.

Winning was the ultimate to Prefontaine, and he pushed all the boundaries in his life, testing his physical limitations to the extreme and subtly challenging everyone he knew--his mother, his coach (played with a Zen-like calmness by Donald Sutherland), his girlfriend, Mary (Monica Potter)--and taking the lead time after time.

Right before his bittersweet turn at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Mary asks him what will happen if he doesn't take the gold. "That's not a possibility," he replies, without missing a beat.

But intensity and motivation aside, it's Steve Prefontaine himself (and the actor, Billy Crudup, who portrays him) who makes the film particularly involving. In a starmaking role, Crudup lights up the screen--the camera loves this guy, with his cocky swagger, his Brad Pitt grin, his oozing-from-every-pore charm. If the real Prefontaine was anything like Crudup, it's easy to see how and why the University of Oregon crowds rocked the tracks with shouts of his nickname "Pre" whenever he competed. Prefontaine relished the attention, soaking it up and basking in it like he was predestined for the spotlight.

Without Limits also goes beyond Prefontaine's physical and personal attributes to explore the dynamics of the athletic world. The relationship between Prefontaine and his coach illustrates the almost-parental complexities of the relationship, and gives insight into how all-consuming the sports world is to those involved.

The film--co-written and directed by Robert Towne of Chinatown and Personal Best fame, and produced by Tom Cruise--is the second in a little over a year chronicling the short but spirited life of the Olympic runner. But with the help of Crudup in the lead role (as well as the breathtaking scenery), Without Limits takes an inspiring turn.

Without Limits (PG-13; 118 min.), written by Robert Towne and Kenny Moore, directed by Robert Towne and starring Billy Crudup, Donald Sutherland and Monica Potter, opens Thursday in Santa Cruz at the Nickelodeon.

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From the November 25-December 2, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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