Chariots of Fire

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Bob Smithouser

Movie Review

In 1981, Chariots of Fire captured four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It boasts no marquee stars. There’s a noticeable absence of big-budget special effects. But for families interested in a film with heart, character and a respect for one man’s faith in God, it remains one of the most spiritually uplifting motion pictures ever made.

Chariots of Fire retells the true story of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, two men driven by a need to run. Both exhibit unbelievable speed, train religiously and share a passion to compete in the 1924 Olympics. But there’s a deeper issue. What begins as a classic conflict of man against man evolves into a study of inner strength as the two must find victory in being true to their own hearts and convictions.

A cocky Englishman (and self-conscious Semite), Abrahams bests all runners at Cambridge. He dismisses the notion of “second place,” convinced that any man who doesn’t break the tape is a failure.

Liddell, on the other hand, is a committed Christian. This local hero “runs for God” and works at his family’s mission in Scotland. Even more impressive than his athletic prowess is the way he competes. When knocked down in a race, he doesn’t complain or point fingers. He perseveres. After winning a contest in France, Liddell trades glory and applause for an opportunity to preach the gospel to fans and reporters.

A few mild profanities and social drinking not withstanding, thoughtful viewers can explore issues including:

— What happens when Abrahams takes his eyes off of the goal? How does this illustrate Paul’s point in Phil. 3:12-14?

— Examine Liddell’s stand against running on the sabbath. In what ways does God honor his commitment?

— Consider Abrahams’ respect for a “contented” peer, and the dangers of obsessive behavior.

The film’s cerebral centerpiece and a flurry of foreign accents may be too much of a challenge for young children, but teens and adults should enjoy Chariots of Fire from the moment it bursts from the blocks until it crosses the finish line. A true masterpiece.

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Bob Smithouser