Chariots of Fire – Movie Review

Now anybody who has an interest in Western Classical music or Western Instrumental music in general would surely have heard the ‘Chariots of Fire’ theme from the soundtrack of the movie with the same name. And therefore, on a lazy Saturday morning in Bangalore when I was waiting for the postman to deliver something important, I popped in the ‘Chariots of Fire’ DVD into the player expecting to watch a nice movie, but it turned out to beat my own low expectations quite handsomely.

While I have always been a big fan of sports in general, and sports movies in particular, the ones that appeal to me the most are the ones that deal with the human aspect and the human emotions of sport. The sheer joy of victories, the abysmal heartbreak of defeat, the hardwork that went into making a winning team, the subordination of personal interest in favor of the team doing well, these are the usual recurring themes in all good sports movies, and the Chariots of Fire is no different. What makes this movie so special though are two things – the first is that it is a period movie which deals with events surrounding the 1924 Paris Olympic Games, and the second is that it is almost completely based on real people, events and happenings of that time.

The movie deals with Harold Abrahams, a new student at Cambridge University, who uses his natural running skills to prove a point to all the anti-Semitic (or anti-Jews in other words) people there. Being subjected to taunts due to his Jewish parentage from a very young age, Harold is doubly (maybe even triply) determined to make a mark at Cambridge, to the extent of being madly focused on his running and more important being the best at his chosen event, the sprints.

Simultaneously, the movie follows the travels of Eric Liddell, born of Scottish Missionary parents, who is very strongly into Christianity and believes that his purpose in life is to spread the Lord’s message in far flung areas of the world. Eric truly believes that the Lord has made him fast for a purpose, and that when he runs, he feels the Lord’s pleasure within him.

Fate, their talents, and constant winning ways put both Harold and Eric on the boat to Paris for the 1924 Olympic games, where they are team mates. What happens at Paris, and whether both of them realize their dreams make up for the last 20 odd minutes of the movie.

All in all, a simple movie with no unnecessary twists and turns. All the actors play their roles competently, and a reasonably tight screenplay keeps things moving at a decent tick. What stands out about this movie though is the sheer simplicity with which the subject is treated. Even though it deals with real people and their stories, at no time does it get boring or slow and manages to keep the audience engaged throughout. Very few movies can make the audience relate to the emotions and the state of mind of its characters, and Chariots of Fire excels in this regard.

Related links

Wikipedia link to the movie

IMDB link

Allmovie link

Rotten Tomatoes link

Roger Ebert review


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