STUDIO: ESPN Video/Disney
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: Bannister: 3 Minutes, 59.4 Seconds. Flick: 90 Minutes.
Original 1954 Film of Roger Bannister Breaking the 4-Minute Mile
Deleted Scenes
Four Minutes: On the Set Featurette
Original Interviews with Roger Bannister and Chris Chataway
Enhanced trivia track

The Pitch

“Let’s make a flick about that guy who did that thing back in that one decade.” “You mean Roger Bannister, who was the first man to run a mile in under four minutes back in 1954?” “Yeah, him.”

Turns out running four minutes ain’t that hard when you’re on the beach in Normandy, June of ’44…

The Humans

A bunch of British dudes and Christopher Plummer.

The Nutshell

Back in 1954, the only three frontiers left for man were to climb Mt. Everest, break the four-minute mile and bag Marilyn Monroe (okay, maybe I threw in that last one). Sir Edmund Hillary knocked off the first one, Joltin’ Joe had the last one covered, so the only thing left was for someone to run his ass off. That someone was Roger Bannister, a 25-year-old British med student at Oxford. Without using a coach at first, training on his own terms and in his spare time, and failing to capture gold in the 1500 meters (the Olympic mile equivalent), Bannister was set to give up and concentrate on medicine. That was until, he found the right coaches, the right methods and the right reasons to achieve the feat. This is the story of how he went about doing it.

"WTF?! This is a gay porn flick!"
"You said you wanted to see someone do a four-minute male."
"That was mile you sodding twit!"

The Package

This is a surprisingly loaded disc, with deleted scenes, outtakes, a good 25-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, detailed interviews with Roger Bannister and his running mate, Chris Chataway, the original uncut footage of Bannister’s historic run, an audio commentary and even an enhanced trivia track. I’ve seen full season box sets of TV shows that weren’t this stacked. I would never have expected this much material to be on one of those ESPN Original flicks, but this one has hours of stuff. The cover art is a little like Chariots of Fire…actually it’s a lot like Chariots of Fire, but thankfully without the Vangelis.

"Christ sakes! How long are they goint to blare that friggin’ Vangelis over the loudspeaker?"
"Until we’re done running."
"Then step on it you ninnies!"

The Lowdown

This is definitely one of the better movies that’s come down the pike for this reviewer in a while. Relative unknown Brit Jamie MacLachlan portrays Bannister, a shy but dedicated and talented med student at Oxford. Bannister is interested in the mile run, which for some reason isn’t highly thought of in 1950s England. Still, Bannister is set on running that one and only race. He loses his first in a college competition because he pulls a Prefontaine and tries to run from the front, only to fade in the clutch. Preferring to run on his own and without a coach, and only running in his spare time while he concentrates on his studies, Bannister is beset by the press, who demand that he conform to established training methods and to run for England in international competitions. As his ability grows and his times drop, he’s also constantly pursued and ushered on by Archie Mason (Christopher Plummer), a former world class runner who was paralyzed in World War I, and also by Burnett (Friday the 13th: The Series’ Chris Wiggins), a coach. When he fails to win gold in the 1952 Olympics, Bannister is set on retiring, but he meets his future wife, Moyra and trains with Burnett and Mason and (spoiler) succeeds in breaking the barrier.

"Running’s not the only thing I do in four minutes, baby…"

This is a well-made movie. It always seems to me that British movies don’t fall under the same standard as American movies, that they can seem like they’re better just because they’re British. Don’t know why. But this movie is actually quite good. It’s got the heart of the typical underdog sports movie such as Rudy. MacLachlan is affecting as Bannister (and damned if he doesn’t look dead like the guy), who has to learn to accept other methods of training and ignore outside pressures in order to achieve his goal. There’s a sequence when all of England is listening to the radio and Bannister’s failure at the ’52 Olympics that is inventive, both for its cinematic style and because it’s also a primo way to save on the budget. Plummer is always excellent and it was nice to see Wiggins again, as I was a huge fan of Friday the 13th. That plus all the extras make this a good disc to stuff in a sports fan’s stocking

7.8 out of 10