Hugh Hudson directs this nostalgic tribute to Cambridge University athletes Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, recounting the events of the 1924 Olympics. Abrahams (Ben Cross) is a Jew who experiences racial prejudice at Cambridge, while Liddell (Ian Charleson) is a Scot who runs for the glory of God. The two become rivals on the track, and both are chosen to represent Britain at the Paris Olympics. However, a problem arises when Lidell learns that he is expected to compete on the Sabbath; something that goes directly against his religious beliefs. The film won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score and Best Costume Design, and received a further three nominations.
This is a story about what drives people internally - what pushes them to excel or at least to make the attempt to do so. It is a story about personal and societal values, loyalty, faith, desire to be accepted in society and healthy competition without the utter selfishness that characterizes so much of the athletic endeavors of our day. Certainly the characters are not alike in their motivation, but the end result is the same as far as their accomplishments.
The acting is superb - I had never seen a character presented like Eric Liddell in movies - how fine Ian Charleson was in this role, the softness of his voice, his ease and joy in running competitively (especially in contrast with the tense tortured Harold Abrahams). I also loved the more supporting roles - I've read a biography of F.E. Smith and Nigel Davenport is exactly how I would imagine him. The actor who played the Prince of Wales also seemed exactly right with his effortless charm, looks, and lack of imagination. Ian Holm, John Gielgud, Lindsay Anderson - all wonderful.
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