movie classics: chariots of fire [1981].

i watched the movie chariots of fire for the first time over the weekend, and today i thought i would share my observations.

for those who don’t know or who have not seen it, chariots of fire is a movie that chronicles some members of great britain’s athletics team leading up to the 1924 olympics held in paris. narrated by aubrey montague, who wrote daily letters to his mother during his training, it most specifically focuses on the stories of harold abrahams and eric liddell.

abrahams, the son of a jewish financier, was out to prove that he deserved to compete along with everyone else [remember this was when anti-semitism was beginning to rear its ugly head in europe following the end of world war 1]. facing disbelievers and antagonists at nearly every turn, including from his masters at cambridge, abrahams relied heavily on his friends: montague, lord andrew lindsay [a fabrication made for the movie based on real-life athletes], his girlfriend sybil, and his coach mr mussabini [played by ian holm!].

liddell, the son of scottish missionaries, was born and raised in china and was expected to take over the family’s mission until it was discovered that he had a natural ability for running. in his eyes, his speed was a talent given by god, and it was his duty to see it through as best he could despite misgivings on the part of his family [another creative stretch].

although the two were not formal rivals – and did not actually compete against each other in real life – the movie shows their parallel stories of fighting to make it to paris and prove themselves to their family, friends, country, and god.

what i liked:

the music, of course. i have been hearing about the score for this movie since i was a child, and even with that build up i was blown away by it. the music fits the movie and the scenes perfectly, and it really is one of the best movie scores i’ve ever heard.

the pacing. this is a 2-hour movie, which i generally have trouble sitting through [poor attention span and all that], but i was mostly enthralled from beginning to end. it’s a sports movie, so i was most likely going to like it anyway, but i was surprised that i had no idea how much time had actually gone by.

the scenery. much of the movie takes place in cambridge and the shores of england, and i loved it. even though 34 years have passed since the movie was made, other than the muted colours it didn’t feel dated at all. it also made me wish for a return trip to the uk soon.

andy lindsay. i know his character is based on others who did not wish to have their names included in the movie, but he was pretty great. he was confident without being arrogant, he was so happy-go-lucky, and he was the consummate teammate. great guy.

uncle vernon! richard griffiths makes a very brief cameo at the beginning of the movie as a prejudiced porter at caius [pronounced ‘keys’] college. his character was a tool, but it was cool to recognize him.

what i didn’t really like:

montague. outside of being the narrator, his character really didn’t feel that developed to me. he was essentially abrahams’ glorified sidekick, and i think more could have been made for him.

the actual olympics. after all the lead-up to the olympic games, it felt like the actual races were really glossed over other than the two main ones for abrahams and liddell. it felt like i waited a long time for the games to start and then they were over before i blinked.

this is a great movie to see for anyone and everyone, and i’m so glad i finally got a chance to see it. anyone out there seen it and have some feedback? i’d love to hear!

xx

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