In the years leading up to the 1924 Paris Olympics, Ben Cross is Harold Abrahams, who useshis speed as a runner to fight back against the quiet but persistent anti-Semitism of Britishsociety. Ian Charleson is Eric Liddell, the profoundly religious Scot who runs for God. Wefollow their lives and training, along with those of Abrahams’ college friends, up to theOlympics, with a few smallish tribulations along the way.
And that’s about it, really. There are plenty of s…ow-mo running scenes, which, along withVangelis’ score, seem rather dated now. The film reaches for a significance that its subject matterdoesn’t really support, and given the flood of Merchant-Ivory films (and the like) that we haveseen since 1981, this doesn’t seem like much of a big noise anymore. It is engaging, and it ispretty, but it is also slight.
Vangelis’ most famous score (sorry Bladerunner fans — you win in the cooldepartment, but Aunt Tilly is much more likely to recognize the main title score here) is wellserved by the new 5.1 mix, and is suitably enveloping. The same can’t be said for the rest of theaudio, which has next to nothing by way of surround, but does boast some solid left-rightplacement.
The print needs some cleaning up, especially during the first reel, when grain, dirt anddamage are a real problem. The picture does improve, and the colours thereafter are strong, withexcellent contrasts and blacks. One problem that does remain is the occasional jerk or shudderof the picture, and the odd speckle is also present.
Disc 1 has a commentary track by director Hugh Hudson. He may lean towards the technicalside of things, but is very articulate and a strong speaker. Disc 2 has 7 deleted scenes, includingone (with commentary) that was present in the European cut of the film. A shame that it hasn’tbeen re-incorporated into the current print. There are screen tests for Cross and Charleson here,the theatrical trailer, and two featurettes. “Wings On Their Heels” is a half-hour documentary onthe making of the film, featuring new interviews with much of the cast and crew. “Chariots ofFire: A Reunion” is a round-table discussion between Hudson and other members of the creativeteam, but only two supporting cast members. Cross shows up in the other doc, but Charleson, ofcourse, is dead. The menu’s main screen is animated and scored.
All very pretty, and filled with a quaint but a little off-putting flag-waving, this stillentertains, but hardly seems Best Picture material.
Special Features List
- Director’s Commentary
- “Wings on Their Heels” Making-of Documentary
- “Chariots of Fire: A Reunion”
- Deleted Scenes
- Screen Tests
- Theatrical Trailer