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Customer Review

92 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Compromise is the Language of the Devil.", July 20, 2005
This review is from: Chariots of Fire (Two-Disc Special Edition) (DVD)
Chariots of Fire, no matter what I view in the future, will always be in my Top 10 list of movies. The setting, the actors, and the plot are incomparable. However, what I treasure the most are the values intrinsic to the tale. How often does film concern infidelity, murder, hatred, deceit or the pathological need to dominate others? Well over 80 percent of the time I would guess, but here, in this masterwork, man is depicted at his finest. In Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, we are presented with exemplars of our species. These are the adults you dreamed of being when you were a small child. Their lives showcase a grandeur seldom seen in our own.

The film is set in the years immediately following the first world war, when feelings of grief and despair were ubiquitous. Upon their arrival at Cambridge, Abrahams and Montague are assisted by two former wounded soldiers, and one of them could best be described as "mutilated." Such a fate, the two young athletes were quite lucky not to have shared.

Societies that experienced the caldrons of the Somme and Paschendale were not as quick to dismiss the existence of God as we are today with our spoiled affluence and inflated life expectancies. To be saved from the carnage raging around you is not something to take lightly. Given the solemnity of their era, the seriousness and devotion integral to Liddell and Abrahams is not surprising. Competition was undertaken for more important reasons than money or fame.

Eric Liddell eventually concludes that missionary work in China will have to wait until he fulfills his athletic promise. He believes that God did not give out gifts without a purpose. The Lord's intention was that what Liddell was given must be used. Eric felt "God's pride" as he ran and never forgot who gave him the power he possessed. A decision that would mean nothing to most of us (running on the Sabbath) is not one he can even consider undertaking. For Liddell, God must come before country, king, and personal glory.

For Abrahams, his drive stems from the alienation he feels from being a Jewish outsider in Christian England. His goal was to "run them off their feet" and conquer who he views to be his oppressors. He does not run for pleasure; he competes only to win. His story is quite compelling. Abrahams' relationship with his coach, the also alienated Sam Mussabini, is intense and the bonds between them are nearly familial. Indeed, during what I regard as the most touching scene in the film, as Mussabini gazes at Olympic Stadium, and then stumbles to his bed, he mutters, "Harold, my son."

There's no sex, violence, or car chases in this movie. All that Chariots of Fire can offer is a depiction of the nobility of man. It is an extraordinary celebration of the forgotten values of chivalry, friendship, brotherhood, duty, and that the fact that God undoubtedly takes a direct interest in our lives on His earth.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 16, 2010 6:18:48 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 16, 2010 6:19:42 AM PDT
Outstanding observations, Mr. Chapin.

While this classic piece of modern filmaking is rightfully praised for the acting performances, the musical score, the cinematography, and the script/story, what elevates it beyond most other films in my mind is the spiritual message that pervades almost every scene. Jew or Christian, British or French, young or old- all the characters in this film are wonderfully portrayed as moved by something greater than themselves. Liddell could articulate it in plain words; Abraham could only act it out, in his passion to excel.

After watching this movie again just last night, and being moved as much as the first time I saw it on original release in the theaters almost 30 years ago, it's clear to me that what makes a movie a "classic" is often more than the sum of its parts.

Sad to read that the DVD release is so poor, though- guess I'll stick with my VCR copy.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2016 11:08:00 AM PDT
Kelly Genius says:
Beautiful commentary! Both!
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