The story, told in flashback, of two young British sprinters competing for fame in the 1924 Olympics. Eric, a devout Scottish missionary runs because he knows it must please God. Harold, the son of a newly rich Jew runs to prove his place in Cambridge society. In a warmup 100 meter race, Eric defeats Harold, who hires a pro trainer to prepare him. Eric, whose qualifying heat is scheduled for a Sunday, refuses to run despite pressure from the Olympic committee. A compromise is reached when a nobleman allows Eric to compete in his 400 meter slot. Eric and Harold win their respective races and go on to achieve fame as missionary and businessman/athletic advocate, respectively. Written by
The "male military band" featured several women disguised with false mustaches. See more »
After the Olympic flag is raised, the sixth verse of the French national anthem is sung. The first, fifth, and sixth verses are the most commonly sung verses of the Marseillaise. See more »
Lord Andrew Lindsay:
Let us praise famous men and our fathers that begat us. All these men were honoured in their generations and were a glory in their days. We are here today to give thanks for the life of Harold Abrahams. To honour the legend. Now there are just two of us - young Aubrey Montague and myself - who can close our eyes and remember those few young men with hope in our hearts and wings on our heels.
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The strength of this movie is the study in character contrast and development, with the added attractions of a historical setting and the soaring, ethereal musical score of Evangelos Papathanassiou.
The film is anchored in the character study of the introspective, brooding, and complex persona of Harold Abrahams, wonderfully portrayed by Ben Cross. Here is a man with all of the outward trappings of success: academic achievement, unexcelled athletic ability, wildly popular with his peers, yet tortured by an inbred inferiority complex and driven to lash out at the world in response. In the end, he conquers his inner demons through hard work, sacrifice, understanding of his fellow man, and the love of a good woman, to whom he opens his heart. I found myself thinking that Harold Abrahams is the kind of man I would want as my best friend, yet at the same time would find hard to become close with and relate to.
Ian Charleston's character (Eric Liddell) is a bit more one-dimensional. He is the archetypical Good Man, faithful to his family, his country, his friends, and his God. And in the end he triumphs through sheer force of will and by tapping that reservoir of inner strength that sustains him. As the crusty coach Sam Mussambini says, "He's a gut runner. Digs deep...".
It's a bit of a pity that the movie, long though it is, could not have delved more deeply into the other characters' background. Lord Andrew Lindsey is particularly appealing as Harold's and Eric's faithful friend who gives up his spot in his specialty race (the 400 m) to allow Eric a chance at the gold. Sybil Gordon is wonderful as Harold's love interest who tries to draw him out of his lonely world of bitterness and resentment and self-hatred ("You ran like a God. I was proud of you...", even after Harold loses a race for the first time in his life to a more determined Eric). Even some of the American competitors, who are only peripherally portrayed in the concluding segments, lend some color. Jackson Scholtz' reaching out to Eric Liddell gives one the sense that he knows the greatness of spirit that quietly resides in this unassuming Scotsman.
Its a wonderful story wonderfully told, and when its over you find yourself longing for it to continue, to see how these characters we've come to know over the previous two hours will turn out in the rest of their lives. Alas, the story of their lives is noted only in subtitles as the film closes.
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