A well-done drama from ESPN, "Four Minutes" tells the story of Frank Bannister (Jamie Maclachlan) , a young man who has been running since he was little, yet remained untrained. As he's told early on, the only things that remain unconquered were Everest and the four-minute mile. After Everest has been climbed, the only thing left is the thing that many thought anyone who actually accomplished it wouldn't be walking away from.
We then see Bannister as a brilliant med student at Oxford, focusing on his studies until he gets roped in to run track after deciding that rowing was not exactly his thing. Throughout much of the early going, we see Bannister trying to decide whether or not to persue running or his studies (in a nice touch, we see him tie one into the other, as his persuit of the four-minute mile also has him wondering what the human body is capable of), and unlike most movies in the genre, this inner debate actually has some depth, thanks to an excellent performance from Maclachlan and a good script. The only underdeveloped part of the piece is the love story element.
The second half of the movie chronicles Bannister's struggle (with the help of a coach played well by Christopher Plummer) to try and be the first person to break the 4-minute mile record. The film, directed by Charles Beeson, has a subtle way about it that actally works in its favor, giving the film a sort of elegance and simplicity that pulls in the interest instead of making the film feel slow. The film is also helped immensely by lovely production design, cinematography, locations and especially, score (from composer John Frizzell). At only 90 minutes, the picture moves along at a pretty rapid pace, as well. Aside from the romantic element, there's really nothing here that could obviously have been cut.
While still a bit predictable (as most sports dramas are), "Four Minutes" is otherwise expertly done, with a great lead performance. If ESPN is going to start producing films like this, I'm certainly eager to see what they'll do next.
VIDEO: "Four Minutes" is presented by Buena Vista in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation is inconsistent, but mostly looks good. Sharpness and detail remain satisfactory, with some interior/dimly-lit sequences looking a bit softer than the crisp and clear rest.
Aside from the inconsistent sharpness and detail, some minor artifacts are visible at times, as well as some slight edge enhancement. No print flaws were spotted, and colors remained bright and natural, with nice saturation.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and offers a pretty enjoyable audio presentation. It's certainly dialogue-driven, but the surrounds sometimes offer some light ambience. The enjoyable score is also nicely spread across the front speakers. Audio quality is quite pleasing, as dialogue and music sounded crisp and well-recorded, with no distortion or other concerns.
EXTRAS: An audio commentary with two producers and the director, deleted scenes, trivia subtitle track, outtakes, original interviews with Roger Bannister and Chris Chataway, behind-the-scenes featurette, original film of Bannister breaking the 4-minute mile record and sneak peek trailers for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: "Four Minutes" is an understated, well-acted drama that I found to be a very pleasant surprise. The DVD edition provides adequate audio/video quality and a nice helping of supplements. Recommended for fans of sports dramas, but others may want to still consider a rental.