Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

The Flying Scotsman

The Flying Scotsman
Johnny Lee Miller, Brian Cox and Billy Boyd

Rated: PG-13 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: May 4, 2007 Released by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.

A steely Johnny Lee Miller plays amateur cyclist Graeme Obree in Douglas MacKinnon's The Flying Scotsman.

Though it seems overly arch and cliched at points, it does have the appeal of The World's Fastest Indian, even if it won't reach a similarly broader demographic. And, one not familiar with the sharp accents needs to be aurally attentive.

MacKinnon takes one into the obsession of Obree in 1993 Glasgow when he worked as a courier.

His goal was the one-hour world record, unbroken for nearly a decade, but he changes that from a bicycle constructed from household items.

Obree becomes immersed in international competition with rival Englishman Chris Boardman supplanting him after only a week. It's not only about new designs to keep officials vigilant, but checking his own psychological well-being.

Effective backing comes from Brian Cox as a well-meaning, sentimental, crusty minister, Billy Boyd as Obree's close friend and sponsorship helper, and Laura Fraser as his supportive wife. The latter two, in particular, have palpable rapport with Miller who carries the film well, beyond an athletic level.

Some may feel the film falls prey to Obree's mental illness with unfortunate bouts of depression and self-delusion. His fits fracture bonds, and the irony lies in the fact that The Flying Scotsman steers clear of overachieving and the cutting-edge when its protagonist is hardly unambitious or understated. One recognizes the world-weary cinema trends in this type of tale when it comes to things like the unkind official (Steven Berkoff) and expository, flashbacks, not to mention the necessary fallout.

Mackinnon works admirably with three scenarists to coalesce the politics of the sport and the idiosyncracies of Obree into something that is coherent and refined even if the atmosphere of the sport isn't rendered with visual flair. Finding the truth inside such a committed man isn't easy in such an emotional rollercoaster even outside a velodrome.

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The Flying Scotsman       C+       C+

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