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Review: 'Prefontaine' starring Jared Leto is a classic, 21 years later Special

Posted Jul 12, 2018 by Markos Papadatos
The film "Prefontaine" starring Jared Leto, is one of the actor's breakthrough roles, and one of his greatest acting performances to date. The movie is a fitting homage to American track and field legend, long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine.
Jared Leto posing with Prefontaine s parents while filming  Prefontaine.
Jared Leto posing with Prefontaine's parents while filming 'Prefontaine.'
Courtesy of Linda Prefontaine, Prefontaine Productions
The movie, directed by Steve James, chronicles Prefontaine's life as a young child to this tragic death at the young age of 24 (in a car crash). It shows his drive and ambition from a young age to be the best he can be, and proved that nothing was going to stop him, especially his naysayers or his small stature. In the end, he was able to prove every naysayer wrong.
Ed O'Neill (best known for his role in Married with Children) did a superb job playing his assistant coach Bill Dellinger, whose support evident during practice as well as during the terrorist attacks of the Munich Massacre, when he took him under his wing, and allowed him to stay with him in his hotel. R. Lee Ermey also triumphed in the role of head coach Bill Bowerman (who was also the co-founder of Nike). We see him making shoes for Prefontaine throughout the clip. It also shows a few of Prefontaine's personal relationships such as with Elaine Finley and Nancy Alleman. Despite coming in 4th place in the Munich Olympics, we see Prefontaine scoring another come back in the 5,000 meter race that was held at Hayward Field.
Most impressive about Prefontaine was that the film was based on a true story, and despite the gritty attitude that he may have had, his love for track and field (and running in particular was infectious) and he made everybody around him better, by helping them reach their full potential (including discus thrower Mac Wilkins). Prefontaine possessed an indomitable spirit, and became an activist who found for rights for amateur athletes (for more control over their sport), and rightfully so. Three years following his tragic death, the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 was enacted. Towards the end of the film, it is very difficult to hold back tears, especially after the moving eulogy that was given to him at Hayward Field by R. Lee Ermey as Coach Bill Bowerman.
His legend is still relevant today, more than 43 years following his death. His courage and brevity are an inspiration to all. He broke multiple collegiate records and American records in his athletic career. The Prefontaine Classic takes place every year at Hayward Field in his honor, which has been ranked as one of the best track and field meetings in the world; moreover, the Prefontaine Classic is a part of the IAAF Diamond League. Prefontaine was also posthumously inducted in several Hall of Fames, such as the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame, and the High School Track and Field Hall of Fame.
Steve Prefontaine
Steve Prefontaine
Horst-Rüdiger Schlöske
The Verdict
Overall, Prefontaine is a powerful movie that is recommended for all fans of track and field, especially long-distance runners and those that are a fan of Steve Prefontaine. Also, for the younger generation, it introduces them to the life and legacy of Steve Prefontaine. This film deserves to stand the test of time as a perennial classic. Prefontaine truly was the pride of Coos Bay.
This film, which was originally released in 1997, and the legacy of Steve Prefontaine, inspired this journalist to fall in love with track and field in the late '90s, when he grew up in Greece (for five years).
As an actor, Jared Leto, has always been one to fully commit himself to any role that he has undertaken, and after seeing him in most of his films, this may still be one of his most compelling acting performances to date, since he embodied Steve Prefontaine and was transformative in the role in this film. The resemblance was absolutely striking (including his running style which is evident in archived photographs), and Leto delivered a true tour de force performance that left viewers in goosebumps. The entire cast was remarkable. Prefontaine starring Jared Leto garners an A+ rating.
Read More: Digital Journal chatted with Linda Prefontaine, the sister of Steve Prefontaine, earlier this year.