The Flying Scotsman
I didn't actually want to see this film as it didn't catch my interest at all when I first went through the blurb from IMDB:
The true story of Graeme Obree, the Champion cyclist who built his bicycle from old bits of washing machines who won his championship only to have his title stripped from him and his mental health problems which he has suffered since.
It had me thinking of courage over adversity and that kind of thing, something that didn't really even tickle my interest, so I discarded it.
Then, once I had organised the schedule for viewing I found a huge space on my first day between viewings in Cineworld's screen six, and lo and behold right in that space was a showing of The Flying Scotsman. So I thought if I'm going to see nothing, I might as well see something, and so I went to see this film.
I'm now looking back on my decision not to see this with contempt, for this film is absolutely superb, filled with stirring performances and a fabulous story full of heart and emotion.
The film was incredibly moving and on a number of occasions it caught me and I struggled to keep the tears back. It really did touch me very deeply with the plot line of depression caused by events in childhood, something that connected almost instantly with me.
It opens with a harrowing and dark event that seems totally at odds with the rest of the film, and for much of it you are enjoying the positive and happier moments waiting for this darkness to return and be explained. This sets a perfect tone for the film, and highlights the cloud that passes over Obree which would, without this opening scene, have perhaps passed without such recognition and significance.
The writer, director and lead actor capture these feelings and portray them on screen with the perfect amount of care and love without them becoming overly twee, belittling them, or making the character of Obree seem weak and distanced from the audience.
Douglas MacKinnon directs this really well, and you see some excellent style during the racing moments themselves. Here's something to think about, the racing is just a bike going round and round the oval, but MacKinnon makes it some of the most exciting and tense moments I've seen on screen for some time.
His long steadicam shots, tight depth of field and the portrayal of speed works fantastically well in stepping up the excitement. In fact at a couple of points I found myself gripping my hands tightly and wishing Obree to win, almost saying it out loud.
The passion and the darkness of Obree have been portrayed without a turn to clichés or distancing the character from the audience. Something about this character, and the others in the story, is that they are all very identifiable, and you can connect with their feelings throughout the film. At no point did I feel that any character was doing anything that seemed forced or against their beliefs.
Moments between Obree and his manager-friend Malky or Baxter or his wife, are all very touching and extremely personal and don't push the story into sickly sweet but keep it firmly footed in reality. A lot of this is also down to the performances from the actors themselves, Jonny Lee Miller plays Obree with tons of passion and focus, with Billy Boyd providing an utterly convincing performance as his friend who becomes his Manager and believes passionately in him. Brian Cox gives another performance of note, being perfectly natural and showing real compassion, again without tipping over and becoming sweet.
There's plenty of amusing moments as well which raised many laughs in the audience, but one I have to tip my hat off is the moment where Obree is called English, and he retorts with typical Scottishness. A fantastic moment and it shows how well the characters have been captured and shown as real people.
Overall I'd say this is a must see film, one that has so much heart and emotion that before you know it you're tied emotionally to the characters and willing each forward. They've all been written so well on the screen and MacKinnon has done a wonderful job of bringing Obree's passion to film. I must admit that I was so captured by the character of Obree that I found myself close to tears at some moments of triumph, darkness and his confession. A must see movie.