Silver-screen sports stories rarely revolve around the big and brawny, but the small and scrappy, like Sean Astin in Rudy
or Toby Maguire in Seabiscuit
. For Scottish cycling sensation Graeme Obree (Trainspotting
's Jonny Lee Miller), the biggest obstacle isn't physical, but financial--and psychological. From 1993 to 1995, when most of The Flying Scotsman
takes place, he's a bike-shop owner and courier who dreams of turning pro (Laura Fraser plays his supportive spouse). After Rev. Baxter (Brian Cox returning to his native Scotland) sets him up with supplies, and fellow courier Malky (The Lord of the Rings
' Billy Boyd) agrees to manage him, Obree sets out to break the one-hour world record. He starts by building a bicycle from spare parts, a move that recalls Anthony Hopkins' eccentric racer in The World's Fastest Indian
Obree's money woes are further complicated by a battle with manic depression, which is handled sensitively, if superficially, i.e. it isn't made clear whether he ever receives treatment. Though he'll break several records before the film is over, the World Cycling Federation (represented by former James Bond villain Steven Berkoff) makes him jump through several demeaning hoops to get there. As for Miller, he's convincing as a cyclist (Obree serves as one of his stand-ins), though Boyd provides the bulk of the charisma. Nonetheless, the real-life champ deserves recognition for his achievements, and Mackinnon's movie is as a sympathetic testament to a true talent. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Drama based on a remarkable true story. When British cyclist Chris Boardman won a gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, the world was caught off guard. No one had ever suspected that Britain was capable of producing world-class cyclists. Perhaps no one was more shocked by Boardman's success than unemployed Scot Graeme Obree (Jonny Lee Miller), an old riding partner of Boardman's who on more than a few occasions had crossed the finish line before his medal-winning counterpart. With his debts piling up and his family in desperate need of some good luck, Obree is determined to take one last shot at the world of cycling with a little encouragement from his longtime friend Malky McGovern (Billy Boyd) and his loving wife, Anne (Laura Fraser). Now, with no official sponsor, no financial backing, no funding to speak of, and a decided lack of experience needed to design the kind of bike he would need for his ambitious endeavor, the 27-year-old cyclist decides to build his own revolutionary bike from the ground up and begin the arduous journey to becoming the fastest cyclist in the history of the sport.