Chariots of Fire | Chicago Reader

Chariots of Fire

Despite its blatant mediocrity, this 1981 British film knocked 'em dead everywhere, which makes me suspect that audiences weren't responding to the film itself as much as to the attitudes that underlie it. A conventional underdog tale (of two British runners in Olympic competition) is used as emotional cover for some fiercely reactionary sentiments, including nationalism, classism, xenophobia, and religious fundamentalism. Colin Welland's script sidesteps every significant conflict it raises, while Hugh Hudson's direction steals shamelessly from the male masses of Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia. The film, in fact, fits most of the criteria for fascist art laid down in Susan Sontag's “Fascinating Fascism”—it's a celebration of pummeling physicality. The battered Britons may have some excuse for enjoying this nostalgic re-creation of empire ideology, but what's ours? 123 min.

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