Chariots of Fire movie review: It"s still stirring stuff!

Chariots of Fire: It's still stirring stuff!



09:57 GMT, 13 July 2012

Chariots of Fire (U)

Verdict: Still stirring stuff

Just in time for the Olympics is a big screen re-release of Chariots Of Fire, the 1981 Oscar-winner about two British athletes attempting to win medals at the 1924 Olympics by running in slow motion.

Colin Welland’s script about the Olympic spirit, God and the class system has little in the way of anything perceptive to say about any of these topics.

It also contains anachronisms, inaccuracies and continuity errors, many of them to do with flags — which is odd in a film that is itself a flag-waver.

Chariots of Fire, from 1981, is being re-released in time for the Olympics

Chariots of Fire, from 1981, is being re-released in time for the Olympics

I have a sneaking sympathy for the jaundiced view of its leading actor, Ian Charleson, who described it as ‘a tedious, propagandistic film’.

‘How it ever won the Oscar is beyond me,’ he added. ‘I think if one watches Chariots Of Fire a second time, one realises there is less there than meets the eye.’

Yet Americans — perhaps surprisingly in view of their must-win ethic — warmed to it as a parable about the importance of having a code of honour or a religious belief that transcends the notion of winning at all costs.

And, of course, the reason it succeeds with audiences around the world is that it’s a stirring tale about inspiring people.

Both Charleson, playing a Scot with fervent Protestant ideals, and Ben Cross, playing an abrasive Jew who’s very aware of anti-Semitism, use running as a way to assert their dignity.

Nigel Havers also makes an impact as a decent, self-sacrificing representative of the English aristocracy. The running sequences, helped by Greek composer Vangelis’s remarkable, deservedly Oscar-winning score, achieve a kind of poetry rare in cinema.

Watching it just before this year’s biggest sporting event is both an exercis e in nostalgia and a taste of things to come.

Chariots Of Fire is also released on Blu-ray on Monday.