Chariots of Fire

  • Directors: Hugh Hudson
  • Producers: David Puttnam, Jake Eberts, Dodi Fayed, James Crawford
  • Writers: Colin Welland
  • Genres: Drama, History, Sport
  • Actors: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nigel Havers, Cheryl Campbell, Alice Krige

The movie is based on the true story of two British athletes competing in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. Englishman Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), who is Jewish, overcomes anti-Semitism and class prejudice in order to compete against the “Flying Scotsman”, Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), in the 100 metre race.

In 1919, Abrahams enters Cambridge University. He attempts and succeeds at the Trinity Great Court run, which involves running around the court before the clock finishes striking 12. Meanwhile, Liddell sees running as a way of glorifying God before travelling to China to work as a missionary. He represents Scotland against Ireland in a race, and preaches a sermon on “Life as a race” afterwards.

At their first meeting, Liddell shakes Abrahams’ hand to wish him well, then beats him in a race. Abrahams takes it badly, but Sam Mussabini (Ian Holm), a professional trainer who he had approached earlier, offers to take him on to improve his technique. However, this attracts criticism from the college masters because they are not sympathetic to a Jewish student representing the college. They allege it is ungentlemanly and unsportsmanlike for an amateur athlete seeking to compete in the Olympics to employ a professional coach, but Abrahams realizes that is cover for their anti-Semitism and class entitlement, and dismisses their concern.

Abrahams competes in the 100 metre sprint and wins. Now he can get on with his life and reconcile with his girlfriend whom he has neglected for the sake of the running. Liddell himself defeats the American favourites in the 400 metres, in spite of their coach’s remarks to them minimizing his chances. He then goes on to do his missionary work in China.

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