An honest appraisal of cinematic running scenes: Jason Bourne, Blue Crush, Juno and Charlie Chaplin
A note from Paul: When Stephen asked me to pen the opening for this piece, his magnum opus, I was moved to tears and vomitus. I truly think this is some of the finest sports and running journalism I’ve seen in years. So sit back, relax, grab an acai-goji bowl, and read on:
With the Oscar’s airing tonight, we at the Citius Mag Flagstaff office have a serious case of Movie Madness. Granted, combined, we’ve seen very few (read: none) of the films up for nomination this year. And the movies we’ve evaluated below for their accuracy in depicting running scenes? Well, let’s just say we haven’t seen them in years, if at all. (Note: I personally had a Blue Crush poster hanging in my room for much of high school; a freebie from the local movie theater I acquired while seeing a different film.) So without further adieu, let’s dig into some of the most iconic running moments in cinematic history, and discuss how realistic they appear.
I’ll check back in at the end for a lecture about Juno. But until then, Stephen, take it away!
Jason Bourne’s Moroccan dash for Desh (“a Blackbriar asset tasked to kill Bourne in Tangier” – The Bourne Ultimatum Wikipedia page) is incredibly important. While it is completely unrelatable to most runners because of the effortless non-linear movements Bourne completes without tearing a labrum. It’s worth dissecting for a few reasons.
Jason Bourne is a natural-born killer and steeplechaser.
“Technique. I’m pretty sure it matters a lot.” One of my old college coaches said this to me once, and obviously Jason Bourne listened because the way he plants his lead foot on the barriers (railings) and shoots himself into the water pit (glass window) is with a deftness only a psychogenic amnesiac could posses
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: not enough people steeplechase while holding a weapon. Some say it would be illegal. Other says it is flat-out dangerous. Well, Jason Bourne takes my advice in this chase scene and trapezes around Morocco while holding fast to his 2nd Amendment right. I like how the gun is thrust backwards during his leap in order to:
- Shoot any haters behind him.
- Propel his lead arm follow to accompany his opposite lead leg. This is so special.
This next image completes the menage á trois of Bourne steeple maneuvers. While I would never personally recommend two-footing a water jump, I will always concede to the guy smashing through a glass window.
We’ve all had those giddy reveries in the midst of a hopped-up, endorphin-infused run about kicking the absolute shit out of the next lifeform that crosses our path. But have you actually done it? Do you know what it feels like when brow-sweat mixes with an amalgamation of bloody knuckles and gooch sweat? PROBABLY NOT. Bourne is smiling while taking an open palm to the face because he’s not you and he’s a psychogenic amnesiac.
Jason Bourne literally destroys someone’s ability to breath and live IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS STEEPLECHASE. Normal humans are having their legs filled with lactic acid and turning into vinegar balloons, but our boy Jason Bourne is ending someone’s existence with 1K to go. That’s crazy. With 1K to go in any steeplechase I’ve ever raced, I’ve begged for my ankle tendons to snap over the next barrier so I could collapse and make sure my internal organs weren’t actually on fire.
General Charlie Chaplin Running Scenes
Always more worried about keeping his top affixed to his head on than keeping a solid knee drive, Chaplin was a known disaster when it came to running on screen. Below is a visual guide to Chaplin’s failures as a cinematic athlete.
Fool me once…
FOOL ME TWICE…
Seriously? Stop it.
GET YOUR HAND OFF YOUR HAT, CHARLIE.
MAYBE DON’T RUN WITH A HAT, CHARLIE.
Aaaaaand boom goes the dynamite.
Chaplin’s repeated attempts at cinematically running to his fullest potential were foiled by a child-like fixation for his hat but, ultimately, the brunt of his running failures can land squarely on the shoulders of his squat frame and comically-contrived running stride.
One nice things the friends do is train together. Training partners provide motivation, accountability, and severe animosity. The latter is grotesquely overt in the cult-classic Blue Crush.
The premise of the film is three friends working to get one friend back in tip-top surfing shape. In a sick twist of fate, I currently am in the midst of helping Paul re-enter the world of elite running (FOLLOW PAUL SNYDER’S ATTEMPT AT A WORLD-RECORD HERE) with the help of friends, so I can personally attest to the validity of this plot line.
Enough about me!
Blue Crush hinges on two friends helping Anne Marie get back in shape so she can start back on that morning-surf, afternoon-acai bowl regimen. Throughout the flick, the woman are often seen training together. Training together is, as mentioned, nice. But one thing they do in training which isn’t so nice is try to drown Anne Marie.
Troubling as it is seeing a training partner try to drown their friend, it’s approaching Suge Knight status when YOU CALL IN BACKUP TO HELP YOU DROWN YOUR FRIEND.
In defense of Anne Marie’s friends, she seems to be holding the rock under her own volition. So while her friends didn’t tape her hands around a boulder, they are enabling her to do something stupid.
Friends generally enable friends to do dumb things – especially with running – but overall this is a bad running scene and completely unrealistic. It is also very dangerous. 10/10 would not recommend this.
I’m not the biggest fan of this flick, despite being both an Ellen Page and Michael Cera fan. I think it just tries too hard to be quirky. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s the story of a young high school couple grappling with the realities of teen pregnancy after a night of hasty and unprotected love-making. Ellen Page plays Juno, who is obviously the more important character, and whose pregnancy drives the plotline, along with her relationship to her family, friends, and the couple for whom she opts to become a surrogate. Michael Cera plays Pauly Bleeker, the kid who impregnates Juno. He is billed as a stud cross country runner.
So with that, let’s dig in on Cera’s portrayal of a teenage harrier. I assume Cera plays himself in every movie, because he basically is the same character in everything’s ever appeared in, and behaves similarly in every interview (Editor’s note: Yes. Can confirm. It’s annoying.) I’ve seen him in, namely, he looks extremely uncomfortable and speaks very softly. In this regard, he is the perfect person to play a high school distance runner.
However this is where his believability in the role ends. It’s not that his form seems a little janky to be an athlete of his purported ability (he wins a race, if I recall correctly), nor is it that he wore the same outfit for basically the whole movie. Both of those things check out in terms of being the norm for 17-year old jogging males.
No, it’s the fact that he contributed to a young woman’s pregnancy. I can only suspend my disbelief so far, and I draw the line at Pauly Bleeker not being a virgin. Having once been a fairly successful high school distance runner myself, I can attest that one of the tenets of my personal training philosophy was not having any sex, nor getting even remotely close to it.