The Flying Scotsman
NEW YORK -- The well of true-life inspirational sports stories might not be bottomless after all as demonstrated by this drama about Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree, who broke the World One Hour record despite numerous obstacles. But Douglas Mackinnon's film, currently being given an extremely limited release by MGM, never quite manages to whip its disparate story elements into an emotionally moving whole.
Jonny Lee Miller stars as Obree, a Glasgow bike messenger who overcame tremendous odds to triumph in his sport. These included perilous financial circumstances; the prejudice of World Cycling Federation officials who didn't approve of his unorthodox riding style or his ungainly homemade bikes, crafted from, among other things, washing machine parts; and most importantly, a nearly crippling bipolar disorder that led to at least one suicide attempt.
The screenplay by John Brown, Declan Hughes and Simon Rose details how, with the help of his loving spouse (Laura Fraser), his best friend and manager (Billy Boyd), and a priest (Brian Cox) who mentored him, Obree managed to not only compete but win at the highest levels of cycling.
Unfortunately, little of it makes much of an impression in this curiously diffuse effort. Although individual moments are both amusing (the manager requests financial sponsorship from a businessman who immediately starts stripping, only to change into cycling gear) and moving (the priest's revelation about his own emotional burden), the film never manages to rouse the expected emotions.
Not helping matters is Miller's remote performance. Although the actor admirably refrains from obvious audience manipulation in his portrayal of the troubled Obree, his work manages to cross the border from restraint into monotony.