Without Limits (1998)

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Released 14-Oct-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 113:16
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Robert Towne
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Billy Crudup
Donald Sutherland
Monica Potter
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $14.90 Music Randy Miller


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"When people ask me why I run, I tell them a lot of people run races to see who's fastest.

I run races to see who has the most guts."

    Without Limits is the biographical story of one of America's greatest ever athletes. Billy Crudup stars as American middle distance runner and legend Steve Prefontaine. During the early 1970s Prefontaine, or Pre as he was known to his legion of fans, won virtually every race he contested in America, and held every national record for distances between 2000 and 10,000 metres, all before he turned 24. He was a national hero, worshipped by fans and fellow runners, yet misunderstood and often snubbed by those in power in the athletics world.

    Pre was an extremely talented athlete who was vocal in his distaste at the state of the amateur athletic world and did things his way. This brought about frequent clashes with his coach and mentor Bill Bowerman (here played by Donald Sutherland). But it was a match made in athletic heaven; Bowerman, head coach of Oregon University, with his old-fashioned strategies on running of playing it safe and out-thinking your opponent versus Pre's adamant convictions to do things his way and lead from the front. Bowerman's passion for the sport and his athletes was matched only by Pre's passion for challenging himself to near breaking point - such was his tolerance of pain. The two forged an often unlikely friendship built on respect for each other's differences. Bowerman even designed and made the running shoes for his team and would eventually go on to found the Nike brand.

    This film charts the rise of the talented teenage firebrand that was Steve Prefontaine, his early college years and his passion for not only running, but for the opposite sex as well. His winning of consecutive NCAA titles and the breaking of many records along the way all culminates with selection in the US Olympic team for Munich in 1972. The outcome of this famous race against the best in the world changed Pre's focus and he became all the stronger for it.

    The real strength of this film lies not in the performances of the cast (which are excellent I might add, especially Billy Crudup, an actor I knew only from his role as Russell Hammond in Almost Famous), but in the cinematography and editing. Shot by the renowned Conrad L. Hall (American Beauty, Road To Perdition), the race scenes in particular are captivating and exciting. When the action moves to the 1972 Munich Olympics, the inclusion of some official games footage of the actual race Pre competed in is handled seamlessly and adds much to the overall authenticity of the production.

    For a budget title under $15, this is a superb addition to any film or sports buffs library.

    Some Steve Prefontaine facts (courtesy www.nike.com):

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Transfer Quality

Video

    With this being another of the budget Warner Home Video titles, I am again impressed by the quality of the transfers on offer. In terms of bang for your bucks, you will certainly find little to complain about here. This is a mostly clean, artefact free and all round pleasing transfer. For less than $15 you can't really complain anyway but this transfer gives you so little to grumble about you could almost pay full price and still be happy.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is also 16x9 enhanced. There is a bit of debate as to the original aspect ratio, since IMDB lists it as 1.85:1. I imagine from how this transfer looks that that information is incorrect. Widescreen Review confirms that thought, listing the original ratio as 2.39:1 and the Region 1 DVD as 2.35:1.

    The transfer is just above average in terms of sharpness, especially when compared to the level of detail we have come to expect in recent releases. Thankfully I noticed no edge enhancement. Probably the poorest element of the transfer is the level of shadow detail, and given the number of scenes that are filmed in quite dark surrounds this is a problem on more than one occasion. Watching the film in a completely darkened room should assist with this problem. Thankfully there is only minimal grain, which again is a real surprise and what is present does not become at all distracting. There is no low level noise.

    Colours are fairly muted and dull though you could say that this is a legacy of the early 1970s period it was trying to capture. Vibrant isn't exactly a word I'd use to describe the transfer, but overall there are no problems, aside from the odd skin tone looking a little too red for my liking. Black levels are perfect.

    There are no apparent compression problems. There are no instances of film-to-video artefacts such as aliasing. Film artefacts are present, though given this film is only five years old I would have hoped for a few less than are actually present.

    There are only two English subtitle streams available, these being of the standard and Hearing Impaired variety. They are as accurate as can be expected, with only a few words missed every now and then.

    This is a single layered disc, so there is no layer change to navigate.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only the one soundtrack on this disc. It is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in English, encoded at the lower bitrate of 384 kb/s.

    This isn't exactly what I'd call demonstration material with basically no surround channel use. There is enough panning and other directional effects across the front soundstage to give it a multichannel label, but most of the action is anchored in the centre. The only time the rear channels get a work out is during the distance races, especially the superbly filmed Munich Olympics 5,000 Meters.

    The dialogue is clear at all times and I witnessed no audio sync problems.

    The score is by Randy Miller and evokes plenty of drama and excitement, particularly during the races.

    As mentioned there is minimal sustained surround activity, and the subwoofer is also only called on a couple of times during the races. Its presence isn't really missed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    No extras are included on this disc.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 disc misses out on:

    Discounting the pan & scan version and awful snapper case, the inclusion of only the theatrical trailer is hardly enough to sway me in favour of the Region 1. When you consider the retail price of the Region 4 is less than $15, the local product is a clear winner.

Summary

    Without Limits is a stirring tale of one man's burning ambition and drive to succeed at everything he did, with his talent for distance running capturing the heart of a nation. The portrayal of Steve Prefontaine by Billy Crudup is remarkable - he is the spitting image of him. The seamless integration of real Munich Olympics race footage is done so well it is very difficult to pick what is real and what is staged.

    The video quality is average, but without significant flaw.

    The audio is solid and dynamic.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Sunday, November 16, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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