Movie Review: 4 Minute Mile (2014)

“The hardest race is against yourself”

0 Stars
4 Minute Mile (2014)

4 Minute Mile (2014)


Director: Charles Olivier-Michaud

Cast: Kelly Blatz, Richard Jenkins, Kim Basinger

Synopsis: An ageing college coach helps an aspiring young athlete to realise his dreams.

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It’s ironic that, for a movie clearly designed as an uplifting tale of triumph over adversity, Charles-Olivier Michaud’s Four Minute Mile (aka One Square Mile) lacks any kind of inspiration of its own.   Without the furious burst of energy of the sprint runner, it quickly settles into the familiar rhythm of the long-distance athlete, achieving forward motion with smooth but mechanically repetitive movements, attention fixed on a distant goal, and blocking out anything which might distract it from reaching the finish line in the quickest possible time.   But Four Minute Mile’s gentle, loping progress is impeded by stereotypes and clichés it finds impossible to avoid, and rather than hurtle over them… All right – enough with the running metaphors: let’s just say that Four Minute Mile never makes it off the starting blocks.   Ok – that was the last one; promise.

Kelly Blatz is Drew Jacobs, a troubled, working-class kid with a natural talent for running.   We know this because Michaud never lets an opportunity to show Drew running pass him by.  He lives with his single mum (Kim Basinger – L. A. Confidential, The Nice Guys) and older brother (Cam Gigandet – Pandorum), a low-level drug pusher who uses Drew as a go-between whenever his payments to drugs kingpin Eli (Rhys Coiro) are short – which they usually are.   The probable reason he does this is because Eli is big on issuing threats which he spends the entire movie failing to follow through on until the final reel.   Anyway, Drew has a chip on his shoulder that sees him storm off the school track team before he’s invited to leave, thereby excluding himself from the opportunity to win a sports scholarship to university, which offers him the only avenue of escape from the life he despises.   However, he’s offered a second chance by crusty old former coach Coleman (Richard Jenkins – Jack Reacher, A.C.O.D.), who may be a shambling, alcoholic, chain-smoking shadow of the man he used to be, but is still savvy enough to spot a kid with potential when he sees one.

Given that 4 Minute Mile is entirely devoid of any original ideas, you can probably work out the rest of the plot for yourself, but, just in case it’s the first sports movie you’ve ever seen, here’s the potted version: progress, montage, setback, montage, fraternal jealousy, montage, progress, montage, setback, montage, romantic turmoil, montage, progress, montage, tragedy, montage, triumph.   Considering it’s working from such a well-worn template, it’s surprising just how hard 4 Minute Mile has to work at setting up many of its obstacles, and how much it relies on characters creating their own problems, or defying common sense to make things worse for themselves.

The actors are mostly of a calibre that deserves much better material.   Blatz does well to convey Drew’s inner turmoil without turning him into just another sulky teenager, and Jenkins gives the kind of polished performance we’ve come to expect from him, but Basinger is wasted in a nothing role for which she was presumably cast on the strength of the residual star-power attached to her name.   In the role of Drew’s older brother, Gigandet broods and glowers with coiled venom while allowing glimpses of the decent kid he could have been to peep through every now and then in order to illustrate the fate that awaits Drew if he fails to Grasp The Opportunity.   Unfortunately, no amount of effort from the cast can save a movie so over-burdened by stereotypes and clichés.  Watching 4 Minute Mile for the first time, you feel like you’re watching it for the fifth.

(Reviewed 8th August 2016)

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