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cast: John Hurt, Edward Woodward, Jan Francis, and Ben Johnson

director: John Irvin

110 minutes (PG) 1984
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
Top jockey Bob Champion discovers that he has cancer just as Aldaniti, his perfect horse, reaches his peak and is ready to attempt the Grand National. Determined that they will ride in - and win - the incredibly gruelling race together one day, he endures painful treatment and a cycle of dashed hopes to fight his way back to fitness and finally realise his dream.

This 1984 movie, a kind of Chariots Of Fire with horses, trots smartly through Champion's heroic struggle against illness without delving too much into his private life. His awkward courtship of the woman who became his wife is covered, but other aspects of his life take a backseat to his curmudgeonly courage. We're even plunged into his illness within minutes of the film starting, with little chance to get to know him. Perhaps the contemporary audience would have been more aware of the human being behind the story, but if you know nothing about racing, Champion does come across more as the stereotypical 'everyday hero' of a TV drama than a real person.

However, John Hurt endues him with a certain grumpy warmth, and manages to make us understand his passion for riding. A strong supporting cast and fantastic (and often terrifying) racing footage make the film an enjoyable experience despite its predictability. Champions is hardly groundbreaking, but it's a good solid film to watch with Gran and the kids on a rainy afternoon. As you might expect from a film of this vintage, the only DVD extra is a trailer.

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