Without Limits is a very solid film. Co-written with Kenny Moore and directed with class and integrity by Robert Towne and benefiting immensely from Bill Crudup’s method performance as Steve Prefontaine, this is a strong, inspirational sports film that delves into the human psyche just as much as it looks at Prefontaine’s tremendous skill as an athlete. Shot with un-showy elegance by Conrad Hall, one of the true masters of light, Without Limits transcends its customary narrative approach with excellent dialogue and a great roster of supporting performances including Donald Sutherland as Prefontaine’s ambitious coach and future Nike pioneer Bill Bowerman, the adorable Monica Potter as the love interest, Jeremy Sisto, Matthew Lilliard, Dean Norris, Billy Burke, William Mapother, and a FANTASTIC cameo from William Friedkin in the opening section. Randy Miller’s triumphant score hits all the expected, uplifting notes without ladling on extra, unnecessary sentiment, and I loved how smooth the film felt on an emotional arc level; Towne was always a master at crafting the perfect flow with his material. A massive failure at the box-office, this $25 million production grossed less than $1 million in cinemas, which makes even less sense when one factors in the fact that it was a “prestige project” with Tom Cruise as the main producer. How and why this movie was buried I’ll never understand. For his magnetic and amazingly committed performance as Prefontaine, Crudup should’ve been nominated for Best Actor, and it struck me while watching the film last night just how versatile and underrated of an actor he is. I submit the following films as insane evidence of his range and eclectic taste in material: Watchmen, The Good Shepherd, Dedication, Almost Famous, Big Fish, Blood Ties, Public Enemies, The Hi-Lo Country(!), Sleepers, Mission: Impossible III, and Monument Ave. Some of the roles were bigger than others, but in every film, he’s cut a dynamic portrait of whatever character he’s taking on, and I personally think his work in Watchmen is extraordinary and unforgettable. Without Limits is one of those quiet, unsung movies that deserves more recognition and a higher profile, especially considering it’s another underrated directorial effort from the legendary Towne (Ask the Dust, Tequila Sunrise, and the unseen by me Personal Best are his other credits). Note: Not to be confused with the 1997 effort Prefontaine, from doc specialist Steve James, with Jared Leto in the titular role.

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