On Wings of Eagles: Liddell’s Missionary Work Memorialized in Sequel to “Chariots of Fire”
By Kam Williams
Chariots of Fire (1981) told the real-life story of Eric Henry Liddell (1902-1945), known as “The Flying Scotsman,” who won the gold medal in the 400-meter race at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. What made his feat so amazing was that he had only qualified to run in the 100-meter dash but refused to compete in the race when he learned that it would be occur on a Sunday.
Liddell was a devout Christian whose missionary parents had instilled in him the Biblical injunction that the Sabbath was a holy day of rest. Consequently, he decided to enter the 400-meter contest instead, and miraculously managed to prevail against the best runners in the world in an event that he hadn’t even trained for.
Chariots of Fire was a critically-acclaimed movie that received four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Now, after 36 years, this sequel tells what became of the Olympic star after the Olympic Games of 1924.
Co-directed by Stephen Shin and Michael Parker, On Wings of Eagles stars Joseph Fiennes as Eric Liddell. At the point of departure, we learn that he eschewed fame and fortune in 1925 to return to China, the country of his birth, in order to follow his calling to be a missionary.
He settled down in Asia and started a family with his wife, Florence Mackenzie (Elizabeth Arends). However, their life was irreversibly changed when the Japanese invaded China in 1937.
During the occupation, the Liddells were given the opportunity to leave the country, but the dedicated minister decided he could not to abandon his flock.
However, he did send his pregnant wife and daughters, Patricia (Laura Justine Friis Lodahl) and Heather (Asta Friis Lodahl), to live with his in-laws in Canada. Sadly, Eric was interned in a concentration camp where he suffered terribly before passing away in 1945, only months before Japan’s surrender.
The movie is a tribute to a man of great faith who always chose to follow humbly in the footsteps of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Very Good (***). Rated PG 13. In English, Mandarin, and Japanese with subtitles. Running time: 96 minutes. Production Studio: Goodland Pictures/Innowave Ltd/Bondit. Distributor: Archstone Distribution.