Chariots of Fire (1981) PICK
Frequency (2000) PICK
Treasure Planet (2002) PICK
The latest home-video offerings include three worthy films newly available on Blu-ray (or Blu-ray/DVD) — two of which involve key themes of father figures and fatherlessness.
Multiple Academy Award winner and Vatican film list honoree Chariots of Fire is a classic fact-based tale of excellence, faith, conscience and consciousness-raising.
The story of two British runners in the 1924 Paris Olympics — a devout Christian who runs for the glory of God and an earnest Jew who runs to combat anti-Semitism — it’s a rare sports film that’s a study in character and ideas.
For Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), a proud English Jew from a well-to-do family, running is a weapon against anti-Semitism — a way of validating his worth and, by extension, his Jewishness to his Anglo society and to himself.
For Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a devout Scot with missionary aspirations, running is a way of glorifying God.
In the film’s most quoted line, Liddell tries to explain to his pious sister why he is putting off mission work to compete: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.”
Bonus features on the Blu-ray include a trio of new featurettes about the 1924 Paris Olympics, director David Puttnam and producer Hugh Hudson.
Other extras include a worthwhile audio commentary track by Puttnam; a 27-minute documentary on the making of the film; a 20-minute reunion of the director with some of his collaborators, including two of the actors (but not, alas, either of the principals); deleted scenes and more.
Also new on Blu-ray, Frequency, starring Jim Caviezel and Dennis Quaid, is one of the best Hollywood films on the theme of fatherhood in the last dozen years or more.
A time-tweaking parable about the hole in a boy’s life left by an absent father, Frequency uses sci-fi deus ex machina to reconnect father and son, then gradually rights the wrongs of the past.
At the heart of the movie is a premise so simple, yet so powerful, that it could practically carry the story by itself: A Queens cop whose firefighter father died heroically 30 years earlier has an unexpected and mysterious opportunity to communicate across time with his father on the eve of the fatal fire.
In the second half, the film becomes a thriller, as the two main characters collaborate across time to stop a serial killer. The heart of the film, though, is in the father-son relationship and the restoration of a broken family. Guys who never cry at movies bawl over this one. Trust me.
Finally, in a Blu-ray/DVD combo edition, Disney’s Treasure Planet is a decent animated sci-fi swashbuckler that gives Robert Lewis Stevenson’s classic boyhood adventure Treasure Island a Star Wars overhaul.
Full of animated spectacle and rollicking action, it’s also the story of an immature young hero, Jim Hawkins, who was abandoned by his own father and finds a surrogate father figure in an ambiguous but sympathetic old salt named Silver who teaches him the responsibility and maturity he never learned from his own father. Not half bad.
Content Advisory: Chariots of Fire: At least one coarse word; fleeting rear nudity. Still fine family viewing. Frequency: Profanity and harsh language; some strong violence and gunplay; fleeting disturbing images (mostly crime-scene photographs). Mature viewing. Treasure Planet: Intense cartoon action sequences; menacing elements, including alien monsters; a few offscreen deaths. Probably okay for most kids.