Sports movies tend to have the same motive; showcase an underdog athlete's rise, stumbles, and eventual success, where an audience will never stop rooting for the big win.
Chariots Of Fire follows a troop of competitive runners, though it is not a typical sports flick, which could have played a role in its domination at the Oscars honoring the year that was 1981.
It definitely has heart, as the story follows several runners from Britain in their struggles in athletics, all leading up to the team competing in the 1924 Olympics.
In this case, the "underdog" is Harold Abrahams, a high-brow Cambridge student, whose obsession with winning is anything by cheer-worthy. Instead of holding your breath as he crosses the finish line, more than likely, one would roll their eyes and sigh without a care if he wins or loses.
This is where the film veers away from the typical sports story. We end up putting all our energetic passion, not on the underdog, but toward the hope that a man who is already a star athlete, Eric Liddel, will continue to topple all other competitors, even Abrahams.
The film follows true events, part of which being the real life of Liddel, a part time missionary, full time Scottish running champion. He must decide whether to dedicate his life to the church or to the track.
At first he is a rival to Abrahams, but as the Olympic Games approach, they become team mates.
I watched this movie for the first time two years ago, which sparked the idea to watch all the Best Picture winners from the beginning of time.
After the initial viewing, I walked away feeling as if this is one of those movies I just didn't "get". Now the second time around, while it appealed to me a tad more, there was still much to struggle through.
First of all, it's rather slow moving. Only after about an hour, once the competitive spirit between Abraham and Liddel grows, does the excitement of the movie pick up.
When the story is focused on Liddell, it can't lose. His dedication to his life as a missionary, and bringing it into his sport, is where the inspirational bits (essential to any sports movies) come in, and are truly the highlight of the story.
He's no underdog, he's already the best, and we want him to stay that way.
Aside from the sappy (yet endearing) bits of the story, technically speaking, it is actually an outstanding movie. The music, editing, and costumes most deservedly makes Chariots of Fire an award winning worthy piece of cinema.
For those that are familiar with this movie, it goes without saying to mention that celebrated opening scene. Yeah, that one.
Some may have only heard rumors about its excellence, or seen a lame recreation, so I'm here to tell you the truth; any scene in this movie that pairs the glorious, 80's electronic Vangelis score with slow motion running, as in that much recreated and memorialized opening scene, is seriously genius.
The final sprints at the end of each race are always a gorgeously shot photo finish.
Chariots Of Fire is one of those movies I want to love, but just can't. Classic opener, classic score, and a classic story; yet somehow the separate excellent parts don't add up to make a satisfying whole.
Get comfy guys, we are on to another epic-Next Up: Gandhi.