Combustible Celluloid Review - 26.2 to Life (2023), n/a, Christine Yoo, Markelle Taylor, Tommy Lee Wickerd, Rahsaan 'New York' Thomas, Franklin Ruona, Marion Wickerd
Combustible Celluloid
With: Markelle Taylor, Tommy Lee Wickerd, Rahsaan 'New York' Thomas, Franklin Ruona, Marion Wickerd
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Christine Yoo
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 90
Date: 09/22/2023

26.2 to Life (2023)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Running Mates

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This extraordinary, affecting documentary by Christine Yoo cracks down on many myths of what prison might be like, and becomes a subtle rallying cry to fix a broken system. Ostensibly, it focuses on an incredible annual marathon that occurs inside the walls of San Quentin State Prison, a grueling 26.2 miles consisting of 105 laps around the yard. The men that run it are members of the 1000 Mile Club, named after their chosen goal, to run 1000 miles in a lifetime. Volunteer coaches like Franklin Ruona help train and encourage club members. Yoo narrows her focus to three specific runners. Markelle Taylor, nicknamed "The Gazelle," is the club's fastest. Rahsaan Thomas is a reporter for the prison's newspaper, The San Quentin News. And Tommy Lee Wickerd is a former white supremacist who marries and becomes the father of an adopted son while incarcerated.

Yoo coaxes extraordinary, open-hearted interviews from the men, getting them to spill their feelings in a place where it's dangerous to be vulnerable. One myth about prison is that everyone claims he's innocent, but here, the men have accepted their guilt, live with it, and are repentant. Thanks to running, and the prison's many other resources — some of the "B" roll was shot by incarcerated men using equipment from the prison's media center — these men have found a path to walk in life. Yet their insane prison sentences remain, stretching ahead for decades, or, in some cases, centuries. 26.2 to Life not only makes us feel for these men, it also makes incarceration seem impractical and inhuman. Yet, miraculously, it never seems to have a political agenda, and so anyone from any side of the aisle could watch and get something out of this. And they should.

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