4 Minute Mile

Movie review by
Fiona Maloney-M..., Common Sense Media
4 Minute Mile Movie Poster Image
Runner rises above home life in sports drama with edge.
  • PG-13
  • 2014
  • 95 minutes

Parents say

age 2+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

Parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Drew learns how commitment to track could provide a path to college, as well as how achieving something for the sake of personal pride can mean more than winning a race or beating a specific opponent.

Positive role models & representations

Drew's commitment to athletics has the potential to demonstrate just how far dedication can take you, even though he walks the line of falling onto the dangerous path of his father and brother. And although he learns important lessons about dedication and trust, he's often sullen and disrespectful. Coleman speaks to the power of grit and mental fortitude, though he also wrestles with the difficulties of his own past and has a negative relationship with alcohol. 

Violence

Teens get into scuffles at track practice and a party, causing one character to end up with a black eye. Another character is involved in more serious violence: He suffers a severe wound that leaves a bloody trail through his house, threatens others with a baseball bat (which is also used to aggressively break objects), and beats up a man who owes him money. Two characters engage in a fight that involves guns, causing another character to be shot on a front lawn. Most of the violence results in an eventual consequences for those responsible. 

Sex

After flirting for much of the film, two high school seniors are seen kissing while in a pool. 

Language

Relatively infrequent swearing includes "s--t," "hell," "damn," "a--hole," "ass," and "bitch," typically used in moments of anger or tense emotion. Phrases like "shut up" and "loser" are thrown around casually. One character uses a vulgar, sexist phrase when referring to another character's bedroom. 

Consumerism

Runners are shown wearing exclusively Nike gear, including shoes, racing spikes, shirts, jackets, shorts, and leggings. Some shots feature the famous "swoosh" prominently, while in others it will likely only be noticed by those already familiar with the Nike line. 

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Near the beginning of the film, a police radio spouts the news that a character's father has died of a drug overdose. Another character is involved in a drug-running scheme, and he attempts to draw Drew into it. Coleman is pictured smoking almost constantly, and he appears to get drunk nearly every night as a way of coping with the emotional hardships he has faced. Teens are shown drinking at a party, though it's not emphasized.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 4 Minute Mile has a harder edge than the average sports drama. It's by no means a feel-good tale of beating the odds -- the story is tense and loaded, posing an individual against himself and the self-destructive family patterns he must try to avoid. Violence arises repeatedly and includes physical altercations with bats and guns; one character accidentally gets shot. Much of the violence stems from a character's involvement in drug deals, and an older runner-turned-coach is alcohol dependent and a heavy smoker. Language is intermittent and varies from casual uses of "shut up" to more aggressive uses of "bitches" or "s--t." All of that said, against this troublesome backdrop, the main character learns the power that athletics, and particularly running, can carry -- both as a way to face your own internal struggle and to pave a path to a more positive future. Viewers will appreciate the film's lessons in commitment and grit, as well as how the main character learns to harness his talent in a positive way. 

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What's the story?

Drew Jacobs (Kelly Blatz) has been fast all his life, and as a star track athlete in his senior year of high school, his unbeaten record in the 400 meters proves that he's still got talent. But when he comes home after practice, it's a different story, with no easy victories. As the younger child in a family of an overworked single mom (Kim Basinger) and an older brother (Cam Gigandet) who's fallen into a dangerous, self-destructive lifestyle, Drew must carry the baggage of familial instability as he faces both personal and athletic pressures. When his attitude causes him to quit the track team at school, he begins to train with his older neighbor (Richard Jenkins), whose rigorous and uncompromising coaching style pushes Drew to confront himself and perhaps excel to heights he's never anticipated in a new event -- the mile. But as his home life continues to unravel and a stunning tragedy takes place, it may take all Drew's got to reach the goals he's set against his opponents, against himself, and -- of course -- against the clock.

Is it any good?

This film proves to be an interesting combination of the typical and the atypical. In many ways, it presents a formulaic hero's-journey-in-sports-form story line, but it also offers a welcome twist in what had the potential to be an otherwise routine ending. In other words, it's not afraid to have its hero fail both on the track and off, yet it still finds a way for him to win -- a victory that ends up being by no means the standard measure of a runner's success, but one that the film teaches could perhaps matter even more.

The pacing of the film can feel a bit inconsistent at times  -- it's driven during the (perhaps too repetitive) scenes of Drew running around Seattle, as well as during the tense scenes of violence and confrontation, but it lags during talking scenes that at times contain slow, disjointed dialogue. And it certainly has its share of clichés -- the wise old has-been as a coach with an unconventional style, the skeptical athlete slow to buy in but unreasonably talented, and the need to confront your own personal challenges in order to truly excel. But many of the typical sports drama messages may be welcomed by viewers, who will likely find them worth repeating. Though seasoned runners may wince at some of the details, Drew's tale is undoubtedly a testament to the way that athletics have the power to transform a life as a whole -- providing a path to a more secure future, teaching the life-long values of dedication and mental strength, and instilling an unparalleled confidence in personal ability. Viewers will find themselves whole-heartedly invested in Drew's success and thus taken on a bit of an emotional roller coaster by the end of what proves to be, for the most part, a compelling tale. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the role that violence and substance use/abuse play in the movie. Are they necessary to the story? Do they have realistic consequences?

  • Discuss the mental side of sports. What does it mean when Coleman says Drew must face his own fear and run through it? Does Drew reach a conclusion about winning the race against himself as opposed to against others?

  • What kind of pressures and complexities are at work in the relationship between Drew and his brother? What might it be like when someone you love is making choices that negatively affect everyone around, including him or herself? Does Drew handle the situation in the best way?

Movie details

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