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Review of Chariots of Fire (1981)

Updated on May 12, 2011

Filmed in 1981, "Chariots of fire" is based on the true story about two British athletes in the 1924 Olympics, but like many films based on a true story, there has been plenty of poetic license taken to turn it into an entertaining, dramatic tale. In fact there are quite a few inaccuracies within the film, but it still doesn't detract from what is one of the greatest British Movies of all times.

"Chariots of fire" is the story of two British athletes competing for God and country, as well as pride, in the 1924 Olympic games. Firstly there is, Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross - Turbulence) the son of a Jew who, whilst attending Cambridge University, attempts to prove his place in the university society through running. And then there is Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson - Gandhi), a proud Scotsman and devoutly religious who runs because he feels it is a gift from God. As the Olympics draw near, the two of them meet in a warm up race, where Eric defeats Harold. To ensure that this won't happen when they meet in the Olympics, Harold hires a trainer, Sam Mussabini, to get him into top form.

There are several reasons why "Chariots of fire" is so entertaining, firstly it is a very good drama as you follow the drastically different lives of Harold and Eric, secondly, is the wonderful cast who all put in amazing performances. Thirdly, the very memorable soundtrack to the film provided by Vangelis. Fourthly, it has some of the most moving cinematography I have ever seen and finally it deals with the subject of standing up for your beliefs. For those of you who have seen "Chariots of fire", I will guarantee that you are remembering scenes such as, the race round the quad at Trinity College, or Lord Lindsay training over hurdles with champagne glasses placed on them or maybe the powerful scene of them running across the white sands. There are too many really great scenes to mention and all of this adds up to why this is such a great movie.

The main 2 characters in "Chariots of fire" are Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell. In the role of Harold is Ben Cross who creates a character who aims to achieve social acceptability for his achievements and for his family wealth. The role of Eric Liddell is played by Ian Charleson who plays the man of God with gritty realism, and who won't be swayed from his beliefs to race on a Sunday, I can just imagine him, out there preaching to the masses. There are numerous other well known actors within the cast which includes Sir John Gielgud, Nigel Havers, Ian Holm and Nigel Davenport. Not a single member of the cast can be faulted in this film as they all put in masterful performances.

"Chariots of fire" is directed by Hugh Hudson and produced by David Puttnam. So much credit should go to the both of them for creating such a memorable film. From getting the right cast and extracting some amazing performances, too the wonderful cinematography and for choosing Vangelis to create the sound track. But most importantly, they have created a film which tells a story that keeps the audience's attention for the whole length of the film. They have relied on good old fashioned techniques to keep the audience entertained, which sadly many film makers today have forgotten about. Of course probably one of the most memorable things about this film is the wonderful soundtrack composed by Vangelis, with the actual theme tune being used in numerous other films and athletic programmes.

What this all boils down to is that "Chariots of fire" is a brilliant film which is still as good today as when it was first released in 1981. Even though the film is not factually correct, it is still great entertainment which a very good story. With an exceptionally good cast, and an amazing soundtrack, this film delivers on all levels.

Cast: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nigel Havers, Ian Holm, John Gielgud, Nigel Davenport, Dennis Christopher, Brad Davis, Patrick Magee, Peter Egan
Director: David Puttnam

Certificate: PG
Length: 123 mins


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    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      I have not ssen this film for a long time. Thanks for the reminder. It is a great film

    • profile image

      Marie Leonard 

      8 years ago

      Chariots of Fire has always been one of my favorite inspirational movies. I always watch it when I'm feeling down. Thank you for sharing your impressions of it.


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