When it first got out, I was pretty psyched about it. I mean, you don't get a movie about running that often, do you? And the trailer looked great.
In fact, I think only a handful of movies was done before with a running theme. Documentaries excluded.
The one I remember best ( though very vaguely) was Forrest Gump. Tu pun not the whole movie was on running kan? Just a small part when Forrest decided to run because he remembered his momma saying "You gotta put the past behind before you can move on'" and at the time he was suffering from a heart break of some sort and ran for 3 years non-stop.
I remembered that particular scene (although I was only 14 at the time) because I thought it was epic and, let's face it, kinda sad.
Anyway, I guess I wanted to watch Pacemaker to get the essence of that. How great running can be. How healing and profound it is. Lagi pun, come on, it's a movie which centers upon marathoning. I'd be a fool not to be interested in that.
Spoiler alert. Don't go on reading if you don't want your opinions on this movie to be biased.
It started out okay. It centers on Man-Ho, a runner, down on his luck, in heavy debt, working as a delivery guy for his friend's small restaurant and stayed there at night because, well, because he's down on his luck. He used to be a marathon runner with a PB a of 2:27 I think, but that was like a gazillion years ago. He had to stop marathoning because of some sort of a leg/knee injury but couldn't leave running entirely because he's so in love with it and because he's bad at everything else.
So to support himself and his younger brother, he became a pacemaker for the national running team. His job is to train with and pace other runners during a race and drop out midway to, you know, get the rhythm going.
Honestly, to tell you the truth, I forgot why he stopped being a pacemaker and ended up as a delivery boy instead but somehow his ex-coach approached him to be a pacemaker for the Korean Marathon team for the 2012 London Olympics. As a pacemaker for the team, he will be given a chance to participate in the Olympics even though it means dropping out halfway.
I mean, who wouldn't want to be given the chance, right? It's the freaking Olympics!
So he joined the team, being the butt of the jokes to some of his teammates just because he's well past his prime for a marathon runner. He didn't seem like a threat at first.
What I like about this particular part of the movie was that it reminded me of my training camp for the KKM Games back in June. When I had the chance to train in a stadium with real athletes and we breathed, slept and cried running. And for a moment there, it felt awesome.
But then, some parts of the movie bothered me. Like the fact that the marathon runners in the Korean team weren't gaunt like long distance runners are supposed to be. In fact, they were buffed and looked more like sprinters. Only the hero and the supposedly star runner of the team had that appropriate marathon runner physique. The writers didn't elaborate much on the training needs and methods of marathoning and road racing.. Instead most of the training scenes focused on them runners running laps around the track. Tapi kalau fikir secara logiknya, tak sempat nak squeeze in all those fartleks, speed training and LSDs in the 2 hour movie kot because it'll probably bore the hell out of non-running viewers.
And then, just like Malaysian movies, and Thailand movies, and Indonesian movies, and Indian movies and all other Asian mainstream movies, mestiiiiilaaaaaa nak ada watak pak lawak Johnny Lever type dalam cerita. In this case, a black runner in the national team who claimed to be born in Korea and spoke fluent Korean ( I'm not too sure about that because I can't understand a word of Korean). Funny thing about this guy (besides him cracking unfunny jokes) was that he's supposed to be on the national team but failed to start at every race due to stomach issues. So macamana depa ni nilai dia deserving to be on the national team?
Okay, back to Man-Ho, so he went off training with all these dramas around him. What's with his conflict with his more successful and ungrateful little brother, the loan sharks and disputes with his team mates, he also had an inner conflict in which he fought to finally run for himself for the first time and not be a rabbit to anyone else. He ultimately found out that his injury will take him to the final straw in which if he runs that Olympic marathon to the fullest, he will bust his leg/knees forever and will have to retire completely from running.
Somewhere along the film, he decided to quit the team because of all the conflicts and train with his restaurant- owner- friend to qualify for the Olympics.. Here, you will see some almost familiar scenes from Run Fat Boy Run and you will almost roll your eyes. After failing 2 times to successfully finish 2 marathons ( because his leg/knees will automatically bust at the 30th km) somehow he managed to get back on the national team and qualify for the London Olympic marathon. How that happened, I have no idea. Maybe his president pulled a few strings, suggested WW.
So he went and ran the marathon, initially as a pacemaker for the star runner. He's in good shape, weaving in and out of the pack, leading the team, picking up drinks and wet sponges for both him and the star runner. He's doing super and he's right on track until the 30th km in which he stopped because:
a. he's supposed to do that as a pacemaker.
b. his knee got busted. Again.
He was left standing there, while the rest of the runners left him behind for a good , what? 5 minutes? Then, miraculously he spotted his brother in the middle of the spectators opening a red umbrella as a cue for him to run faster ( this is in reference to a flashback in which his little brother opened a red umbrella for him to run faster in a school race).
Tetibe je, he was inspired to finish the race, limping and all.
We all see that this is impossible. He will never make it. Not the whole remaining 12 km of it.
He was left behind so far. He had a serious long-standing injury. He was doomed for humiliation.
But cliches of all Korean drama cliches, he suddenly grabbed a flag from one of the spectators and used the stick to stab his right thigh. Repeatedly!
Konon to encourage more blood flow to his leg. Medically, that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard but in the movie, somehow it did the trick.
With blood flowing down his leg, he was suddenly alright again and got the 2nd wind. Wah!
He managed to zip by all other runners in front of him, Kenyan, Ugandan, American, Chinese and all the big shots to chase the top two leaders: his team mate/ star runner and a runner from Japan ( Japan!).
People, this is impossible to do in a real race. In reality, in an actual race where all runners are at almost the same potential, even a 10 second lead is hard to beat, let alone 5-10 minutes. Unless orang depan tu jatuh tergolek.
But the hero did it.(Gasp!)
He got second place. To pun photo finish. (In a marathon?) With the timing of 2:08. Wah...from 2:27 to 2:08? Giler kentang!
END SPOILER ALERT
Sebenarnya to be fair, this movie ain't that bad. It teaches you the reality of the sport when it comes to running in teams. If you are good, then you're the star, it's all about you. If you're just so-so, you are just the team's domestique to make sure that the star player succeeds.
To be successful in running professionally is not to be just good enough, you have to be better than everyone else.
In parts, I enjoyed the movie. I rolled my eyes at most of the 2nd half of the movie. It screamed all the Korean drama cliches in which I couldn't stand. Plus all the continuity errors.
But that's just me.
If you want to enjoy watching this, watch it with your running brain switched off. No doubt, it is inspiring in some ways.
Better yet, watch it with a non-running friend or family member to spark the interest of the sport.
Mana nak tau, boleh tambah satu lagi umat.
For me, I've had enough of the movie and the hero's freakishly large teeth.