As late as the 1950s, many believed that a person would die attempting to run a mile in less than four minutes. Many men tried, but the first one to succeed at shattering this mythical barrier was Roger Bannister, an Oxford University medical student. On May 6, 1954 at a wet and dreary Iffley Road track, Roger did what no man before him had done.
This terrific movie describes Roger's admission to Oxford in September, 1946 right through his world record run in 1954. As a young Freshman medical student, Roger decided to run the mile race at the Freshman games, and managed to run a sub-5:00 mile despite terrible conditions. Thus began Roger's assult on the mile and his quest to become one of the greatest milers of his generation. His times continued to fall for the next few years while he was still studying to become a doctor. But his time spent on the track was taking away from his studies.
Roger's next goal was the 1952 Summer Olympics, which were held in Helsinki, Finland. Shouldering the expectations of an entire country, Roger was entered in the 1500 meters, a distance just short of the mile. Considered the favorite to win the race, Roger struggled to a disappointing fourth place finish and no medal at all. After this humiliating defeat, Roger became obsessed with becoming the first person to break the four minute barrier.
Having never used a coach before, Roger enlisted the help of Archie Mason (Christopher Plummer). Mason was a champion half-miler before an injury ended his career. But he still had his track and field mentality, and he was regarded as one of the best in the business. Crafting a strategy involving two other runners, Chris Brasher (Drew Carnwath) and Chris Chataway (Grahame Wood), Mason perfected a formula which would allow the other two runners to pace Roger through the first three laps of the race, and Roger would rely on himself for the last lap.
This strategy was put to the test on a rainy and cold day in May, 1954. Brasher and Chataway wanted to run, but Roger wanted to cancel the race. After some coaching and inspiration from Mason, Roger changed his mind and went ahead with the race. Mason's plan worked flawlessly. The trio ran a 57 second first lap, and continued the pace for lap two. However, a slower lap three put the record in doubt, but Roger, relying on sheer strength and guts, ran a superb final lap to finish in 3:59.4; the first sub-four mile in history.
A few weeks later, Roger's record was broken by almost two seconds by a runner named Lundy, but Bannister and Lundy raced head-to-head a short time later, with Roger winning. Both runners ran sub fours. Roger retired from competition shortly after that race. Today, Roger Bannister lives not far from the very track where he ran his "miracle mile".
This is a tremendous movie. Jamie Maclachlan, Christopher Plummer, Drew Carnwath, and Grahame Wood are magnificent in their roles, and the story is very uplifting. Roger's run was called the last barrier that needed to be broken, since Hillary had conquered Mt. Everest that same year. Roger smashed his barrier as well. I give this movie my highest recommendation. Sports fans will love seeing Roger's assult on four minutes, while others will enjoy learning about a simple medical student with a gift of running. Watch this great uplifting film and see how one of the great barriers in track and field was shattered.