The Flying Scotsman Douglas Mackinnon

The Flying Scotsman Douglas Mackinnon
A charming ensemble cast normally relegated to supporting roles elevates and takes the lead in The Flying Scotsman, a telling of the true story of innovative cycling champion and sporadic depression dweller Graeme Obree.

Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting) squeezes into Obree’s snug biker shorts with focused detachment, inhabiting a man driven by ambition but plagued by an oppressive, (seemingly) inexplicable shroud of depression. There is no doubt that Obree is also a man touched by genius. As an amateur cyclist accustomed to street training against his buddy in a vehicle, Obree makes it his mission to beat the one-hour world record for biking, designing and constructing a revolutionary bike out of washing machine parts and bits of scrap metal.

As is the case with many innovators, Obree meets with scepticism and resistance from the old guard, who turn to rewriting rules when the pre-existing fuzzy logic in the regulations doesn’t allow enough leeway to hinder the unlikely champion’s progress. In his endeavours, Obree has the support of his loving wife, Anne (Laura Fraser), his best friend turned manager, Malky (Billy Boyd, or Pippin to most of you), and clergyman/confidant Douglas Baxter (Brian Cox, it’s harder to list movies he’s not in), all of whom play their parts with the utmost humanity, refusing to allow their characters to become triumphant sports movie clichés.

In fact, the whole film is treated more as a subtle interpersonal drama than a traditional "underdog overcomes extraordinary odds” type feature, which might also be what makes the slightly kid-gloving of Obree’s depression all the more disappointing. There is a vague examination of some childhood bullying as the cause of his bouts of despondent despair but there isn’t a deeper examination of the reasons or continuing tribulations of his condition past where the credits decide the story ends. (MGM / Sony)