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Originally published May 4, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 4, 2007 at 2:00 AM

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Movie review

"The Flying Scotsman's" inspirational tale sends spirits soaring

"The Flying Scotsman" is the true story of Graeme Obree, a Scottish amateur cyclist who broke the World Hour Record (for distance covered...

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars


"The Flying Scotsman," with Jonny Lee Miller, Billy Boyd, Brian Cox, Laura Fraser. Directed by Douglas Mackinnon, from a screenplay by John Brown, Declan Hughes and Simon Rose. 103 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some mature thematic elements and strong language. Several theaters.

"The Flying Scotsman" is the true story of Graeme Obree, a Scottish amateur cyclist who broke the World Hour Record (for distance covered) in 1994. An underdog suffering bouts of clinical depression, Obree won over cycling fans everywhere by pedaling a bike he built himself (using, among other things, parts from a washing machine).

Unfortunately, official powers controlling the sport of competitive cycling were less than enamored with Obree's accomplishment, as well as his scrappy defense of the ingeniously designed bike. Stripped of his title, Obree then persevered through an uphill battle to reclaim it, barely living through some particularly dark patches in mental health.

Movie review 3 stars


Showtimes

"The Flying Scotsman," with Jonny Lee Miller, Billy Boyd, Brian Cox, Laura Fraser. Directed by Douglas Mackinnon, from a screenplay by John Brown, Declan Hughes and Simon Rose.

103 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some mature thematic elements and strong language.

Jonny Lee Miller ("Trainspotting") is enormously sympathetic and appealing as Obree, whose precise problems, at least at their root, are treated with such respect and discretion by the filmmakers that "The Flying Scotsman" does not in the least feel voyeuristic. Director Douglas Mackinnon and several screenwriters emphasize endurance over triumph, and in that vein we experience Obree's agonies, both in and out of racing sequences, as matters of survival.

A terrific supporting cast provides emotional ballast to Miller's painful performance, including Billy Boyd as Obree's loyal trainer and friend, and Laura Fraser as his supportive wife. The film is all but stolen, however, by Brian Cox, who plays a special confidante to Obree, a character whose passion for cycling comically interferes with his other duties.

Gavin Finney's cinematography provides a unique perspective on a racing cyclist's view as Obree goes round and round, monotonously, on a slanted track. But an equally compelling look from the inside of Obree's illness offers the film's most stunning moment, a psychodramatic extension of depression's demons. After watching this scene, one is that much happier to read during closing credits that the real-life Obree seems to be doing just fine these days.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com

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