You may be expecting to see a review for a brand new movie for Fresh Friday today but it is my girlfriend’s birthday and I am too busy taking her to the World Athletic Championships at the Olympic Park in London. So, what better film to review today than the classic Olympic movie, CHARIOTS OF FIRE.
The film tells the true (but definitely adapted!) story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympic Games: Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, played by Ian Charleson and Ben Cross. Liddell is a proud Scottish Catholic and Abrahams a Jew fighting prejudice by competing.
The story builds slowly in this film with a very deliberate pacing. The drama is realistic and often understated with quiet moments where you realise much more has been said. It is a truly heroic tale though and is more than just a simple sports film or drama. And the performances of both Charleson and Cross are absolutely sublime. Both play the torn roles they are given so well. You may imagine that Charleson has an easy time but he struggles with his own personal battles with his religion and his running. It is his finest work and truly fitting memorial to the man- his tragic passing came just a few years later, the first celebrity death attributed to AIDS.
This movie cannot simply be mentioned without talking about that iconic score. Written by Vangelis, also known for the score for Blade Runner, it is utterly sublime, uplifting and patriotic and is so brilliantly used in the film as well as after- how many people could forget the iconic Rowan Atkinson rendition of the piece at the London 2012 Olympics? Magnificent.
Taking its name from the hymn, Jerusalem (this should be our official national anthem by the way), you can already tell just how much of a celebration of Britain the film is. It is perhaps a little slow-paced by modern standards but it is terrifically stirring and you cannot help but feel for the terrific characters from their sublime performances. Winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and, of course, Best Score, this is a film that everyone really deserves to see and enjoy. Get watching!