Chariots of Fire

Chariots of Fire (1981)

“Run in God’s name and let the world stand back in wonder”

If I’m going to do this, I’d best do it right. And really, there is no other way I could have started my Olympic Film Festival to celebrate the London games than by watching the story of two British gold-medalists. It had to be the 1982 Academy Award winner for Best Picture. It had to be the movie with the most perfect opening titles I’ve ever seen. It had to be Chariots of Fire.

One might think it would be hard to have low expectations going in to a movie that won four Oscars, including Best Picture, and Best Original Screenplay, and that was nominated for three more, including best Supporting Actor and Best Director. But yet, somehow I was. Once, many years ago I’d sat down and tried to watch Chariots of Fire, and I’d given up in boredom within the first ten minutes. Clearly I was a fool with no attention span back then because this is a FANTASTIC movie.  Apparently Oscar voters, (even in the early eighties,) know more about movies than I did as a teenager. Go figure.

I’ve always loved Vangelis’ score, particularly the opening theme. I’m pretty sure that when I was a little kid my parents had a copy of the soundtrack album on vinyl and would play it from time to time. This brings up vague memories of running around in the living room back when the couch was still taller than me…. anyhow back to the movie. The opening scene is just about perfect. The, at this point, anonymous runners running barefoot along the beach in their national team uniforms accompanied by this magnificent score is an astonishingly beautiful way to begin a film, but the true masterstroke is that the same sequence is also used to close the film. This might seem redundant, but on second-viewing having met these characters, knowing who they are what drives them makes for an entirely different experience.

Ian Charleson and Ben Cross are fantastic as Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams. This may largely come from the fact that they are performing fantastically written material about two tremendously driven and dedicated men. Rivals under the same flag; each with deep-rooted and unrelenting desire to be the absolute best. And Ian Holm is highly entertaining as Sam Mussabini the [gasp] professional track coach. The scene where he learns the result of Abrahams’ 100 Meter final, and the means by which he learns it is one that will stay with me for a long time.

I’m going to wrap up now because I feel like if I continue I’ll just get repetitive calling everything fantastic. The bottom line is that Chariots of Fire is a truly, truly outstanding movie.  If you’ve already seen the film I’m sure you know where I’m coming from. If you haven’t. You should. Soon. Heck, Amazon has it available for streaming for less than $3.

[Chariots of Fire (1981) – Directed by  Hugh Hudson – Rated PG]

OM|ED - Olympic Film Festival
OM|ED Rating: Must See