The Flying Scotsman
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Douglas Mackinnon
scr John Brown, Simon Rose, Declan Hughes
with Jonny Lee Miller, Billy Boyd, Brian Cox, Laura Fraser, Morven Christie, Steven Berkoff, Moray Hunter, Ron Donachie, Sean Brown, Niall Fulton, Philip Wright, Adrian Smith
release US 4.May.07, UK 29.Jun.07
06/UK Content 1h36
The Flying Scotsman
Ride like the wind: Miller

boyd cox fraser

Opening film:

The Flying Scotsman Despite some over-egged cinematic touches, this true story of ambition and obsession is so powerfully engaging that it really deserves a wide audience.

In 1993 Glasgow Graeme Obree (Miller), an amateur cyclist working as a courier, decides to go after the 1-hour world record, which has stood for nine years. With the support of his wife (Fraser), his sponsorship-raising best friend (Boyd) and a minister (Cox) with an available workshop, Obree builds a revolutionary bicycle from household objects. His new record only stands for a week, thanks to English champion Chris Boardman, but Obree is now in the thick of international competition, challenging officials with his innovative designs and battling his own inner demons.

This is a complicated and delicate story, traversing from sports federation politics to the complexities of Obree's bi-polar disorder. And for the most part, the script and direction get the balance right. It only stumbles when the screenwriters deploy movie-plot cliches such as the big falling-out, explanatory flashbacks and the need for a ruthlessly villainous official (Berkoff). Also, the filming style is slightly listless, only rarely capturing the feel of being on a bike or the rousing atmosphere inside a velodrome.

But the story is utterly gripping. And Miller is terrific at the centre of it, delivering a focussed and committed performance. And even looking great in lycra (Obree doubles for him in some cycling scenes). The role doesn't shy away from Obree's unlikeable bull-headedness, as he alienates those around him and falls into scary cycles of paranoia and depression. And Miller's chemistry with Fraser and Boyd is complicated and riveting. While Cox lends the film some sharp-edged gravitas, even if his character becomes somewhat sentimental.

It's intriguing to see a rather low-key, unambitious film about such an innovative, driven high-achiever. But even without ever trying to uncover Obree's true inspiration, they recount the story in an amiable way that keeps us hooked. Amid the emotional high points (and there are several), the film dares to touch on some very dark themes and actually emerges with an affirming message we can all take home with us.

cert 15 themes, language 17.Apr.07

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2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall