The creators of the documentary Hoop Dreams venture into docudrama territory in the flawed but stirring Prefontaine, an account of the short life of Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine. The documentary flavor both benefits and works against the film: Actors playing Prefontaine's family, friends, and colleagues are "interviewed" throughout with all the naturalism of a supermarket-testimonial commercial. But at best, the movie has an air of immediacy, freeing it from the ossified myth-making that plagues many true-life biopics. The period detail is mostly authentic and the racing scenes are extremely well-executed, particularly Prefontaine's 10,000-meter race at the 1972 Munich Olympics, in which actual footage is skillfully intercut with the re-enactment. (The Israeli team tragedy, too, is told with chilling impact.) The notion that "Pre" (excellently played by Jared Leto) evolved from a brilliantly gifted but arrogant prima donna to a selfless advocate of better opportunities for amateur track-and-field competitors isn't quite convincing; you have to suspect this was played up a bit to give the movie closure. These shortcomings prevent Prefontaine from transcending the sports-bio genre, but it's still a vigorous, passionate piece of movie-making.
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