Ask various folks their opinion of Chariots of Fire and many will recount being moved to epiphany by the breathtaking beachside running sequence set to a majestic score by Vangelis and the fact this move won the 'Best Picture' Oscar back in 1981. They're not wrong.
But while that iconic scene still retains its evocative power in 2012, the year of the movie's cinematic rerelease to coincide with the Olympics, the rest belies dreamy nostalgia and instead reveals itself to be a largely unengaging and tedious tale of toff ciphers running around and gurning in slow motion as they stretch for the finishing line. Not even Nigel Havers in the throes of youthful foppishness can save this one.
Director Hugh Hudson's background in commercials lends itself well to the depiction of athletes in motion. This aesthetic brilliance, coupled with a staggeringly superb score by Vangelis, ensures that the audience is mesmerised for these sequences and feels the anguish and ecstasy etched on the competitors faces - whether it be on the beach, in a courtyard at university or at the Olympics. Yet there is a surprising lack of emotional investment in the protagonists that leaves one with a sense of hollowness.
Outside of the running arena, the characters have all the life of shop window mannequins. Hudson's painfully static camera strips every conversational scene of any energy, although the actors appear incredibly wooden. It's hard to tell whether they're doing Colin Welland's screenplay a disservice, or whether the dialogue is simply so stilted that their performances stand no chance.
Frequent bursts of religious sermonising also recall the agony of sitting through an uncomfortably overlong and dull speech at a school assembly. Worst of all is a romantic subplot between Harold and singer Sybil (Alice Krige), which makes you wonder whether you're watching one of those French and Saunders parodies of period drama and its nuanced acting. At least Ian Holm imbues his role as running coach Sam Mussabini with both dignity and loyalty, although he still feels like a caricature.
Chariots of Fire is best enjoyed through the medium of YouTube, watching that stunning opening sequence along the shore, and by grabbing hold of the genial soundtrack. As for sitting through the entire two-hour movie, it's an uncomfortable reminder of how the memory can cheat and the Academy Awards can favour nostalgic sentimentalism over strong storytelling.