Culture Street

By Rebecca McRitchie


With the 2012 London Olympics only a few days away, it is only appropriate that we review one of the most iconic Olympic films ever made.

Chariots of Fire, directed by Hugh Hudson and written by Colin Welland, details the true story of two British track athletes competing in the 1924 Summer Olympics. One is a devout Scottish missionary who runs for God and the other is a Jewish student at Cambridge who runs to escape prejudice.

The film’s title refers to the line “Bring me my chariot of fire” in William Blake’s short 1804 poem ‘And did those feet in ancient time’ (also known as ‘Jerusalem’ as the poem was later adapted by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916 into what is now a popular British hymn which can be heard at the end of the film.)

As soon as the opening scene showing men running on the beach to that iconic title theme score by Vangelis graces your screen, it is evident why Chariots of Fire is a classic film worthy of being ranked 19th in the British Film Institute’s list of Top 100 British films. The film was also nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, including Best Picture.

The pace of the film is slightly slow and there aren’t many twists or turns in plot but it is a successfully moving film with great performances from actors such as Ben Cross and Ian Charleson. The movie’s spiritual and patriotic themes are also charming rather than heavy-handed or preachy.

Despite the pace and the constant slow motion running scenes or perhaps due to the pace and the constant slow motion running scenes, I felt, so acutely, the utter thrill of victory and the sheer agony of defeat. And for a movie about sport, this alone is enough to name it a triumph. Overall I give Chariots of Fire 4 out of 5. Even though I was inspired by the magnificent people the story was about and found the authentic performances by Cross and Charleson to be great, I did, however, long for a faster paced moment of tragedy or action towards the end.

As an official part of the London 2012 Festival celebrations, a new digitally re-mastered version of the film will screen in over 100 cinemas throughout the UK.



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