Classic Film Review: Chariots of Fire (1981)

And the Oscar Goes to:

Chariots of Fire, 1981

Directed by: Hugh Hudson

Starring: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nigel Havers, Cheryl Campbell, Alice Krige, Lindsay Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Nigel Davenport, Brad Davis, Peter Egan, John Gielgud, Ian Holm, Patrick Magee

 

Chariots of Fire is a British sports drama about two Olympic runners during the 1924 Olympics, Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice. It shows their early days before their training becomes serious leading up to the events in Paris.

I remember an Eddie Izzard comedy sketch about British films where he described British films as having ‘very fine acting’ with the drama ‘just sorta folded in with everyone just opening doors’ and looking puzzled, and watching this film just reminded me of that sketch. It was a lot of talking with fine acting but the drama was quite hidden behind the plot of them being runners and training. The runners, Eric and Harold, attend Cambridge University so they’re very well spoken, as are everyone else they meet, and that helped connect this film to Izzard’s comedy sketch.

The story given to the runners is pretty decent, taking adequate time to establish their beliefs, and this plays out in the end as Eric refuses to run on a Sunday. However the end race seemed to build up a competitive rivalry with some American runners who were supposedly the ‘best in the world’ but they hadn’t been well established beforehand so it seemed a bit rushed in there.

The best part about this film, though, is the soundtrack. The iconic sound which accompanies their running at the start, added with the emphatic sounds as they run the race later on are both brilliant, and for a Brit it brings on an extra sense of pride seeing the winners run to this soundtrack (even if they were both described as being Scottish and English more than British, and I’m Welsh). The acting was also very well done, even if everyone was a Cambridge University student speaking the Queen’s English throughout (or the King’s as they had a King at the time).

A nice feel-good film about British runners winning Olympic gold despite all the obstacles they faced due to their faith and the romance elements added an extra layer to their lives. Although aside from training there isn’t too much of a plot and there is a lot of time spent with people just talking, which, while very finely acted, can be a bit slow.

 

Plot: * *

Acting: * * * *

Writing: * * *

Presentation: * * * *

Overall Rating: * * * ¼

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