This is another movie I grew up watching. My family must have an eclectic taste in movies, but I’ve never really realized that until now. Anyway, it’s always interesting to really pay attention to a movie you’ve seen a dozen times before. I noticed things and understood things differently than I ever had before. That might also have to do with the fact that I’m older and so see life a little bit differently than I did. But whatever the reason, watching Chariots of Fire again and trying to be impartial while doing so was a really good experience. And I think I will always be a little bit in love with Lord Lindsay.
So what’s the story? Harold Abrahams is an Englishman who goes to Cambridge and loves Gilbert and Sullivan. He’s also a Jew, which means that to some, he will never be entirely English. He runs to prove to everyone, not least himself, that he is as good as everyone else. Eric Liddell is a missionary who was born and grew up in China, but he also plays rugby for Scotland. He runs for the glory of God. These two men show their dedication in the 1924 Olympic games.
The Good: This movie has great acting. I’m honestly surprised that Ben Cross wasn’t nominated for a best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Harold Abrahams. Ian Charleston is just as good as Eric Liddell. The supporting actors are good as well. I noticed when I watched the famous running on the beach sequence that the four main runners (Harold, Eric, Aubrey Montague, Lord Lindsay) show their characters’ personalities in the few seconds that the camera is focused on them. It was all very well done.
This is the third movie that took place in a historical time this week, and this is the third one where the designer actually paid attention to what people were wearing at the time. Hooray for more correct historical costuming! Thank you, 1981!
I was impressed by the screenplay this time around. It’s based on a true story, but of course things are compressed or changed in time to make for a more streamlined story. All of the characters are distinct people with strong personalities. The story is inspiring, but it could have become overwhelmingly cheesy if the writers weren’t careful. The writers did an excellent job.
The Bad: I feel terrible saying this, but the music is bad. The themes are beautiful, and when the theme song is played on a piano or by an orchestra, I love it. However, the music in the movie is played on a synthesizer, and it just doesn’t work. It’s so very 1980s. It might have been fine if the movie took place in the 1980s, but it’s not okay in the 1920s. (And before anyone jumps down my throat for insulting the music, go and watch the movie. If you disagree with me after that…well, we will just have a difference of opinion. But it will be an informed difference of opinion.)
The Ugly: There is no ugly in this movie. It’s not perfect, but it’s really good.
Oscars Won: Best picture; best writing, screenplay written directly for the screen; best costume design; best music, original score.
Other Oscar Nominations: Best actor in a supporting role (Ian Holm); best director; best film editing.