• Breaking Away

    Released By: Twilight Time
    Released On: January 20, 2015
    Director: Peter Yates
    Cast: Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, Jackie Earle Haley, Barbara Barrie, Paul Dooley
    Year: 1979
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Film:

    I'll be the first to admit that I probably miss out on a lot of good films because they fall under the category of "Nice". That's not to say that I think I'm some kind of badass, I just generally don't find heartwarming or inspiring films to be...heartwarming or inspiring. I do, however, acknowledge that Twilight Time puts out some pretty awesome films that people like enough to buy the hell out of, so I thought that I would check out Breaking Away. And I'm glad I did. It's heartwarming. It's inspiring. And it's also a really nice film.

    Though the film does have a timeless quality, Breaking Away is most definitely set in the 1970's, in small-town Indiana; Bloomington, Indiana, to be exact. It's summer, it's beautiful, and there's not much for four local lads to do, outside of hanging around and catching some rays and a swim or two down at the local quarry. But after a year out of high school with no tangible plans on the horizon, a strange sort of biological clock starts ticking, and the apparent need to do something before they hit their 20's begins to take over.

    Mike (Dennis Quaid) finds it hard to deal with the fact that he's no longer the big man on campus, having left his status as high school quarterback behind him. Unable to socially compete with, and fiercely angry at the nearby Indiana University jocks, he resigns himself to starting fights and doing burnouts on campus...much to the chagrin of his older cop brother. Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley) is the runt of the group, which he compensates for by endlessly lifting weights to little effect, though he does seem to have his eye on the future; if marrying his high school sweetheart and living in a dirty apartment can be considered a step forward. Cyril (Daniel Stern) is....well, he's one of the guys they hang out with. He can play a guitar and he can take a punch.

    Enter Dave (Dennis Christopher), the only one of the group with real, honest-to-goodness high hopes...and they're definitely high hopes. When Dave isn't rocketing around town on his 10-speed bike, dreaming about being accepted by the Italian Cinzano racing team, he's talking with an Italian accent, listening to opera, and driving his average American parents insane with his pipe dreams of going to Italy. His performance is certainly convincing enough to fool the girlfriend of one of the University jocks though, causing a campus brawl of epic proportions. In a grand gesture, the Dean of Indiana University offers Dave and the rest of his "Cutters" a chance to enter a team in the school's Little 500 bicycle race, where a victory could potentially put the four underdogs on the map with the big boys, get them the girls, clear up the misunderstandings with the parents, and pave the way to a shinier future.

    On the surface, there's nothing about Breaking Away that looks like rocket science. Underdogs, adversity, a rivalry between the haves and the have-nots; it's pretty cookie-cutter stuff that's been done in everything from Rebel Without a Cause to Animal House. The trick with such a formula is to make sure that the film also has heart, and this one's got it. The characters bleed real life and inspiration all over the screen, no doubt due to the extremely talented actors who grace the roles; even Daniel Stern, in his first film appearance, is terrific. And despite the fact that you may want to punch Dennis Christopher in the head with all of his "Ciao, Papa!" dialogue, his performance in more subtle moments is almost tear-jerking.

    The cast is awesome, yes, but a large part of the film's appeal is also down to Yugoslavian-born Writer Steve Tesich and English Director Peter Yates, who have created the perfect piece of small-town America for the film. The two, along with a pretty stellar crew, use the actual locations in the film to bring the story to life, making it that much more authentic. Along with the look of the film, both the story and the direction seem perfectly suited to each other, moving along nicely and never feeling dragged out as these films sometimes do. It's worth noting that the main character in the story, Dave Stoller, is based on Dave Blase, an Indiana University Little 500 champion from the same era that Tesich attended the school and was an alternate rider for the same fraternity team.

    Oh, and keep an eye open for some smaller roles and cameos filled by the likes of Ellis from Die Hard, Taggart from Beverly Hills Cop...and PJ Soles.


    Twilight Time brings Breaking Away to Blu-ray with a 1.85:1 transfer that looks great and seems to be very representative of the source material. Lots of golds, greens, browns...summer colours are present here, and although it has a soft look at time, it lends itself to the dream-like quality of some sequences. Otherwise, detail is sharp when it has to be and it looks pretty free from dirt and damage.

    I was under the impression initially that the 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track might not be up to the task of presenting the soundstage fully, but it's a big mono track, and sounds great. Dialogue is audible and clear throughout, and balanced well with the rest of the sound effects in the film. The bike race scene maybe could've benefited more from a surround track, but the 1.0 is adequate.

    There are a few extras on the disc as well; first up is an Isolated Score Track, which is pretty great if you're into that sort of thing. Myself, I can't hear "Barber of Seville" without thinking of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in a barber shop, but the score has gotten a lot of acclaim, so it may be your thing.

    Two 30-second promo pieces are also included, short trailer-like sequences called Road To Adulthood and Academy Booster (A "Remember us when you're doing the Oscar nominations" trailer).

    Dennis Christopher's Fellini Story (12:53) is an audio track in which he tells of his trip to Europe to live out his dreams as a hippie in the 70's, and a chance meeting with Fellini. I don't normally go for audio-only supplements, but this one was really fun to listen to.

    A feature-length commentary is also available, featuring Dennis Christopher and Film Historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman. There's nary a gap in conversation to be found here as the three participants cover just about every aspect of Breaking Away imaginable, starting with how Dennis was almost not in it at all. It's a great commentary, and if you wanted to know more about the film, this is a pretty good place to start.

    A Trailer, a Catalog for Twilight Time Releases, and an insert booklet essay by Julie Kirgo rounds out the supplements.

    The Final Word:

    There's a reason that this one got so many nods and wins in the form of Oscars and Golden Globes. Simply put, it's a really well put-together film with a wonderful cast and a nice story. Definitely worth seeing.

    4 PAWS.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Mad Dog's Avatar
      Mad Dog -
      Nice review Mark. One of my favorite films!
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Glad you liked it, Mike!