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My review of Chariots of Fire

May 17, 2014

Last night, I finished watching Chariots of Fire, the Oscar winner for Best Picture of 1981. I am surprised that I actually liked it. I thought it was going to some stuffy, boring little costume drama, and I had long ago grown tired of that Vangelis theme. It wasn’t boring at all though. The story is mainly about two runners vying for Olympic gold in the 100 meter dash for the British Olympic team in 1924. One of the men must overcome prejudice and anti-Semitism in England’s strict class system, while the other, a Scottish Presbyterian, strives to keep his religious convictions his primary focus. The prejudice and anti-Semitism portrayed in the film is mild. I don’t remember any particular insults or anything being thrown. Mainly, the powers that be have a slight mistrust. Ben Cross plays Harold Abrahams, the Jewish runner. I remember Ben Cross getting quite a bit of work after this movie came out. He was very good in it. Ian Charleson plays Eric Liddell, the Scottish Presbyterian runner. He is considered the fastest man in Great Britain, but once in Paris for the Olympics finds out that the qualifying heat is on a Sunday. Being a man of great religious conviction, his crisis is whether to race on Sunday or not. Leading up to the Olympics, the two men are considered great rivals, but Abrahams is always bested by Liddell, causing him self-doubt. The film is constructed very well leading up to their possible showdown with each other, but then, also their showdown with the fastest runners in the world: the Americans. The famous Vangelis theme is played once near the beginning of the movie and once in the end. There are a couple of montage scenes with some additional Vangelis music. I just don’t care for the new age-y electronic music. It momentarily took me out of the montage scenes. There is a lot of Gilbert and Sullivan on the soundtrack which I much preferred. There are a few familiar faces in the movie. Ian Holm, probably most well-known as the android from Alien plays Abrahams’ trainer, Sir John Gielgud one of Abrahams’ benefactors from Cambridge, Brad Davis and Dennis Christopher play the feared American runners, Borg Queen Alice Krige plays Abrahams’ love interest, and Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter’s uncle) plays a head porter. Also, somewhere in crowd scenes are Kenneth Branagh and Stephen Fry. Good luck finding them though. This movie was very good. Again, that was to my surprise. I know the Oscars lean towards “prestige” pictures, so I can see why they chose this as their Best Picture winner. However, the Oscar definitely should have gone to Raiders of the Lost Ark that year. Undoubtedly. Next up: the 1982 winner for Best Picture, the three+ hour long biopic, Gandhi. You may need to wake me…..

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