Film: Chariots of Fire

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Film:

Chariots of Fire

Director: Hugh Hudson
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Warner Home Video

The come-from-behind winner of the 1981 Oscar for best picture, Chariots of Fire either strikes you as either a cold exercise in mechanical manipulation or as a tale of true determination and inspiration. The heroes are an unlikely pair of young athletes who ran for Great Britain in the 1924 Paris Olympics: devout Protestant Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a divinity student whose running makes him feel closer to God, and Jewish Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), a highly competitive Cambridge student who has to surmount the institutional hurdles of class…

Reviews

Amazon.com

The come-from-behind winner of the 1981 Oscar for best picture, Chariots of Fire either strikes you as either a cold exercise in mechanical manipulation or as a tale of true determination and inspiration. The heroes are an unlikely pair of young athletes who ran for Great Britain in the 1924 Paris Olympics: devout Protestant Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a divinity student whose running makes him feel closer to God, and Jewish Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), a highly competitive Cambridge student who has to surmount the institutional hurdles of class prejudice and anti-Semitism. There’s delicious support from Ian Holm (as Abrahams’s coach) and John Gielgud and Lindsay Anderson as a couple of Cambridge fogies. Vangelis’s soaring synthesized score, which seemed to be everywhere in the early 1980s, also won an Oscar. Chariots of Fire was the debut film of British television commercial director Hugh Hudson (Greystoke) and was produced by David Puttnam. —Jim Emerson

Barnes and Noble

Two British track stars—one a devout Scottish minister, the other a status-hungry English Jew—compete in the 1924 Olympics in this celebrated drama, a winner of four Oscars, including Best Picture, in 1981. Ben Cross rose to considerable prominence thanks to his portrayal of Harold Abrahams, the son of a Lithuanian immigrant and a fiercely proud man whose painful experience of the British class system casts him in the underdog role. Ian Charleson is equally good as Eric Liddell, the son of missionaries stationed in China who is a decent man and a disciplined athlete. The rivalry between these two charismatic competitors drives Chariots all the way along to their fateful race at the Paris Olympics. And what a run it is: Director Hugh Hudson renders the period with sobriety and stateliness and avoids the usual clichés of sports-themed movies. Ian Holm lends worthy support as Harold’s Italian-Arabic coach, and Sir John Gielgud contributes an amusing cameo. Production-wise, the film is first rate in every way, and the evocative musical score by Vangelis—an Oscar-winning effort that, for better or worse, long served Madison Ave. as the modern equivalent of Pachelbel’s Canon in D—works perfectly with David Watkins’s cinematography. A truly inspirational story that unexpectedly captured the hearts of moviegoers, Chariots remains a career high point for all those involved in its making. Ed Hulse

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