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Case Number 18303: Small Claims Court

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The Four Minute Mile

BFS Video // 1988 // 185 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // February 11th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Roy Hrab ate an entire pie in under four minutes.

The Charge

A brilliant moment in sports history.

The Case

One of the most famous athletic accomplishments of the 20th century was that of Roger Bannister running the first sub-four-minute mile. Bannister, an Englishmen, ran the mile in 3 min. 59.4 sec. on May 6, 1954 in Oxford, England. At the time, there was a group of three elite runners gunning for the 4-minute-mile: Bannister, John Landy (Australian), and Wes Santee (American). The Four Minute Mile, a British television production, retells the race between these men to crack the mile. The film covers the 8 years leading up to Bannister (Richard Huw, Splitting Heirs) breaking four minutes, concluding with the "Race of the Century" between Bannister and Landy (Nique Needles, The Boy Who Had Everything) in August 1954.

A movie about runners trying to break a world record should be exciting and full of drama. The Four Minute Mile is none of these things. Instead, it is boring and dull, clocking in at an epic three-plus hours. The problems are many.

The 8 year timeframe leads to a highly fragmented film. Most scenes are quite short, presenting just enough information to orient the viewer. The race scenes lack any excitement. Also, the film covers some of the exploits of Landy and Santee (John Philbin, Point Break). This fragments the film even more, making it difficult to judge the importance of any particular event. The story just lurches forward in time and across characters. By trying to give an exhaustive collection of the historical scenes, the film allows event overload to take priority over drama, tension, and character. A documentary would have been a better format to tackle this subject matter.

Additionally, the film tells us next to nothing about Bannister's personal life. There are no mentions or glimpses of his family, any girlfriends or wives, children, etc. There is a little about his life as a medical student, but that is pretty much it. Almost everything else is about training and talking about training. The film neither gets in Bannister's head nor does it try to give a measure of the man. We don't even really learn why he likes to run.

The acting is also deficient. The biggest weakness is Huw as Bannister. He lacks charisma, looks nothing like an athlete, and seems totally disinterested in the proceedings. Needles fares better as Landy, presenting him as a man struggling with the expectations of a nation and emerging celebrity. Indeed, Landy's role is far better written than Bannister's, which is surprising. Philbin's Santee has minimal screen time and it's not clear why he needs to be in the film at all aside from reasons of historical completeness. Michael York (Logan's Run) also makes an appearance as Bannister's coach Franz Stampfl.

The transfer is poor. There is lots of highly visible grain and other flaws throughout the film. The image is soft and the colors are dull. The audio is functional, but unimpressive.

There are no extras.

There is no energy in this film. No excitement. No memories. One would expect much more from a re-telling of such an important moment in the history of sport. Even those who run on a regular basis and participate in races will want to skip this tedious production.

The Verdict


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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 55

Perp Profile

Studio: BFS Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 185 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Foreign
• Historical
• Sports
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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