BodEquip Ministries - Equipping the Body of Christ to Live Abundantly.

Movie Review: Chariots of Fire

Quick Plot Summary: Winner of the 1981 Best Picture Academy Award, this is a well-made British biopic telling the story of two British runners - one Christian and one Jewish who compete in the 1924 Olympics.

Rating: Great
Suggested Ages: 14+

This movie has long been heralded in many Christian circles since its release in 1981. Though I am not nearly as enthusiastic about it as some are, I do feel it has some worthwhile things to say and it is a very well-made, albeit "artsy", movie.

This is a very British film that is based on true events that showcases two different British track stars: one is Eric Liddell, a strong Christian who is also a missionary, and Harold Abrahams, a Jew. Harold is shown to be Jew more as ethnicity rather than as His religion - in other words he is not really shown to be practicing or believing in the Jewish faith. In fact, he is shown to be quite confused about life and his role in it. He is portrayed as running to try to prove himself (for others, but even more so FOR himself). He also feels that he has been the subject of discrimination from others in the name of Christianity. Eric Liddell, on the other hand, runs not to prove himself or bring himself fame, but to bring God glory. He truly believes that God has gifted him with a gift and He wants to use that gift to bring God glory. The difference in motivations between these two men is very clear, and yet, I must say that the movie actually seems to portray both of them, and both of their motivations, in a positive light. There is a point towards the end where Harold seems to realize the futility in banking the purpose of his life on winning a medal, and yet, the film goes on to seemingly show him okay with that.

A key part of the movie concerns Eric Liddell refusing to run a certain race because it occurs on a Sunday and he believes that running on the Sabbath would be wrong. He holds his ground and stands courageously for his beliefs. Now many Christians would take issue with that actually being wrong (myself included) but he didn't and therefore as a matter of conscience, he held to his convictions.

This portrayal of bold Christianity, as well as the difference in motivations behind the runners, I believe makes this a worthwhile film for Christians - especially if there is follow-up discussion among family members/group, etc. after watching. This movie can be great to spearhead talking about things such as giftings that God gives and how we are to use them and who gets the Glory, the futility of banking our lives on fame/winning a medal/proving ourselves, whether Eric was correct in his belief regarding the Sabbath (look up Scripture), the importance of standing for what you believe in (not violating your conscience) even when pressured to do so, etc.

I recommend the Blu-Ray of this film over the DVD - the quality improvement is definitely worth it. As a film, this is a rather slow-moving and not particularly exciting film by today's standards. You could think of it more like a visual documentary of sorts and you'd be in the ballpark. This, combined with the very 1920's British feel, will mean that many (I would even say most) children will be bored out of their mind with this movie. This is one more for adults. I can tell you that I saw it when I was about 16 and thought it quite boring then, and it is only now as an adult that I have a greater appreciation for it.

Reviewed by Christopher Long,
BodEquip Ministries

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