Bottom Line: Though well-made, it often feels like an eternal flame.
Directed by: Hugh Hudson
Starring: Ben Cross, Daniel Gerroll, Ian Charleson, Ian Holm, Lindsay Anderson, Nicholas Farrell, Nigel Davenport, Niger Havers, Peter Egan, Sir John Gielgud
Chariots of Fire is a truly uplifting film, but in whole, it doesn’t burn bright enough. If you kept up with the Olympics this summer, you probably saw Rowan Atkinson/Mr. Bean delivering his own rendition. Being a fan of Atkinson’s slapstick humor, I laughed very hard at his five-minute skit, but I feel I would appreciate it even more, had I already experienced Chariots of Fire. There were some moments of pure joy peppered throughout the picture, and thus redeemed it from the rest. I felt like Rowan Atkinson as I watched: just like he was pulling out his iPhone and whatnot as he tapped out a single note over and over on the synthesizer, I often found myself glancing down at my watch, hoping and praying for the film the pick up the pace.
The story chronicles two runner who are competing against one another in the Olympics, despite their similar backgrounds. One is an English Jew, fighting against the prejudice he has been harshly subjected to; the other, a devout Christian from Scotland who believes in supporting his beliefs with sports. Now this is based on a true story to which it stays quite faithful. Costumes are immaculately designed by Milena Canonero, and we get the pitch-perfect bleakness of early twentieth century Europe. Unfortunately, Greek composer Vangelis’s score makes the film seem incredibly ’80s, and the feeling is lost. His score is hit-and-miss, with the more successful side acting out during the utterly breathtaking sequences of competition.
Chariots of Fire proves itself a mixed bag. There have been several to praise the film for its sensational glory, ever since it was first released back in 1981. It’s difficult to see past the more sophisticated “feel good” catharses, but it’s also difficult to ignore the cheese that leaks out of the low budget. A great Italian philosopher named Machiavelli once said, “The end justifies the means.” How true the phrase rings with Chariots of Fire.