Chariots Of Fire (U)



Drama (1981)
123mins UK

Starring: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nicholas Farrell, Sir John Gielgud, Alice Krige, Ian Holm, Nigel Havers
Director: Hugh Hudson
Writer(s): Colin Welland
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Harold Abrahams is accepted to Cambridge University where he becomes the first man to complete the infamous Trinity Great Court Run. Weathering antisemitism from the masters, Abrahams pursues his love of athletics, which is challenged by Scottish runner Eric Liddell, the son of missionaries, who races in the name of God. In their first head-to-head meeting, Liddell beats Abrahams, who subsequently accepts an offer from professional trainer Mussabini to refine his technique and gain up to half a second on his rivals.

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LondonNet Film Review
Chariots Of Fire

In 1982, screenwriter Colin Welland famously decreed, "The British are coming!" as he collected his Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, shortly before Chariots Of Fire surprised everyone by taking home the statuette for Best Picture...

With London under starter's orders for the 2012 Olympic Games, Hugh Hudson's wonderful film sprints back into selected cinemas before quickly passing the baton to the DVD and Blu-ray formats on July 16. Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) is accepted to Cambridge University where he becomes the first man to complete the infamous Trinity Great Court Run flanked by fellow student Lord Andrew Lindsay (Nigel Havers). Weathering antisemitism from the masters, Abrahams pursues his love of athletics, which is challenged by Scottish runner Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), the son of missionaries, who races in the name of God. In their first head-to-head meeting, Liddell beats Abrahams, who subsequently accepts an offer from professional trainer Mussabini (Ian Holm) to refine his technique and gain up to half a second on his rivals. As the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris beckons, Abrahams and Liddell are pitted against each other in the 100m but when the Scot learns his heat falls on a Sunday, he refuses to race on the Sabbath, throwing the preparations of the British team into disarray.

From the unmistakable opening strains of Vangelis's soundtrack, Chariots Of Fire stirs the soul with its rousing depiction of young athletes battling against the class system, prejudice and their own physical limitations to chase glory on a global stage. Hudson's film is certainly looking dated, even in this digitally restored print made possible by £150,000 in funding from the British Film Institute, but the quality of the performances and Welland's script is undeniable. From the slow motion shots of the cast racing through the surf at St Andrew's West Sands to the frenetic sprint around the university quad and the grandstand finish in the French capital, Chariots Of Fire still leaves a patriotic lump in the throat without resorting to cheap cliches, which have become shorthand for the genre in recent years. Cross and Charleson deliver stirring performances, supported by an excellent ensemble cast including Sir John Gielgud as the pompous and dismissive Master of Trinity College.

- Sam Cannon


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