MileSplit was given access to an early screening of the film Sprinter, which is a coming-of-age story focused on a fictional teenage sprinter from Jamaica who rises to prominence in track and field. We sent screenings to a few athletes and coaches, who also watched the film. Below is our review of the picture.
- - -
"There is no shortcut to this thing. Not in track and field. Not in life. Mental Blinkers. Figure out where you want to go, focus on that and nothing else." -- Sprinter
Movie Review: SPRINTER
Wrapped inside this sports movie about a fictional sprinter from Jamaica are familiar themes about family, loyalty, and potential.
And at its best, Sprinter, which premiered to a wide release on April 24 and was executive produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, is a story that digs deep into all these threads. By the film's end, we see a young athlete blossom, on and off the track.
Sure, sports movies often have the difficulty of making characters seem interesting beyond the athletic endeavors in which they favor, but in Sprinter, director Storm Saulter does an excellent job creating a realistic world around our protagonist Akeem Sharp by leaning on life's experiences.
It's very clear early that Saulter, in just his second feature length film, understands the allures and pitfalls of sport in track and field-obsessed Jamaica, even if the story moves a bit too fast at times and ramps up the gratuity unnecessarily. He casts American actor David Alan Grier as the trusted coach, while Usain Bolt makes a cameo late in the film.
Sharp, played wonderfully by Dale Elliott, exudes the charisma and stature of a young, talented sprinter. One of the first images we see, following a scene of abandonment by Sharp's mother, is of the young sprinter blitzing down a dirt road in a small Jamaican town, which gives the impression that we may be headed toward a typical story about an athlete's rise from rags to riches.
But the story dutifully goes deeper than that, leaning on the emotions of a fractured home life, to a somewhat careening relationship with his mother, father, and brother, to all of the manifestations a young athlete might go through when success and power trickles down at the lowest level--crime and sex. Oh yes, Sharp considers going pro at one point over the movie, too.
At times, much like on the final straightaway, things move with rapid speeds. But in today's world of athletics, it's not too far afield, and it's not too hard to imagine a teenager dealing with all these moments within the context of one's rise to celebrity through athletic success.
In the final act, Saulter comes back to family and sports. And it plays nicely in the last moments, enough so that you're left wondering just where the story might go next.
SPRINTER released nationwide on April 24 and Theatrical-On-Demand. It's playing in select theaters in New York, Pennsylvania, California, Texas and Florida. You can find more information and theaters near you at this link.
What They Said:
Britton Wilson, Mills Godwin (VA) High School Senior
"When I first watched it, I thought it was going to be another movie about an inspiring athlete. But I wasn't expecting it to be as good as it was. It brought me to tears."
"The one thing that really stuck with me was the scene in the car with his coach. He essentially told him to focus on what you want and don't stop until you get it. That stuck with me."
"The track scenes were kind of crazy, with the pep bands and cheerleaders. Is that how it is in Jamaica? Track isn't that big of a deal here. You only see that at football games.
Ato Boldon, 4-Time Trinidad And Tobago Olympic Medalist, Coach of Jamaican sprinter, Briana Williams
He wasn't a fan of Grier's attempt at a Jamaican accent, but added, "an otherwise good film."