Summer of Sports Films: Chariots of Fire

Chariots of Fire illustration by Jeff Schwartzbauer

Chariots of Fire – 1981

Dir: Hugh Hudson | Starring: Ben Cross, Eric Liddell, Iam Holm

Sport: Olympic Running

Review: Two British track athletes aim for gold in running at the 1924 Olympics. One a rich Jew and the other a Scottish missionary. One runs for glory and the other for god and glory. All in a time when huge swatches of the world could only dream of a snow balls chance in hell of attending or competing in the games while an American, European or British ruled nation won every single Track & Field medal.

It was impossible for me to cheer on for these two characters because I have some sense of history and how the state of the globe was so stacked in their favor. The Scottish missionary is a bit more interesting because of his devout faith and how isn’t willing to just dash it all off for the sake of running for his country, but even that is easily resolved ultimately because of the Flag he is running under. One would assume the other characters Judaism could come into play, but its never presented as an issue and really his only issues are that he is able to afford an expensive trainer and that upsets some old fops at his exclusive college.

This film won the Best Picture Oscar in 1981 and thats a shame. The cinematography is filmed really well in some great locations with nice sets and it has an iconic theme song. But every character is an insufferable dork. Ian Holm is apparently playing an Arab man but you’d have no way in knowing that due to his attempt at an accent and appearance. There is a hilarious montage of the U.S. track team training via series of bizarre training methods scored to an intense and extremely 1980’s synthesizer track (this movie takes place in 1924). The plot just doesn’t feel as important and historic as they try to convey and much of the films scenes are entirely forgettable. I don’t understand why this is lauded as much as it is.

Here is the Trailer:

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