Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has every right to be amazingly proud of its DVD release of “On Wings of Eagles: The Eric Liddell Story,” directed by Stephen Shin and Michael Parker.
Eric Liddell (Joseph Fiennes) has returned to China after winning a Gold Medal at the 1942 Paris Olympics. Believing he was born to help others through his faith and the missionary teachings of his parents, he returns to the classroom to teach children.
It all becomes dangerous when in 1937 Japan invades China at the beginning of World War II. Finding help in Xu Niu (Shawn Dou), the two continue to find a way to reach the towns and villages. Knowing the danger is increasing, Eric sends his wife Florence (Elizabeth Arends) and their children to Canada.
Florence knows right away that Eric intends to stay to fulfill his duty to help the villagers as much as he can. During a wedding ceremony, the Japanese capture Eric along with the entire church congregation and inter them in camps. Separating families, he takes on the mantle of leader and all that it implies trying to make their lives livable.
When the camp leader discovers who Eric is, he demands that they race. Providing him with nutritious food, Eric finds a way to distribute it to the children and those who are sickly. Xu Niu is outside the camp as well finding ways to bring in necessary food and medicine when he is able and always keeping an eye on his friend.
As the camp runs low on food for both the prisoners and the Japanese soldiers, Eric tries his best to compromise with results that are devastating. It doesn’t stop Eric Liddell from bringing hope to all those who rely on his strength to survive their time as prisoners.
It is hope that makes them stronger together!
Fiennes as Liddell is a quiet man who seems to have the ability to bring people such joy. Believing that helping others is what his duty on earth is, Fiennes brings a gentleness and strength to the role. That is what I enjoy about this actor in that his emotions come through his eyes and expression. Portraying Liddell is a challenge in itself and Fiennes gives it so much soul.
Dou as Xu Niu shares such a beloved friendship with Liddell. Seemingly inseparable throughout the film, it is clear that there is no boundary between these two individuals. Seeing one another as a family is exactly what this film is all about. Fiennes and Dou make it feel so believable and lovely.
It also must be said that the music by Scott Greer is just absolutely lovely and powerful. It doesn’t drown out the emotions that we need to be feeling about the story but instead gently reminds us that investing our emotions in the story is a good thing.
The cast is exceptional with the addition of Augusta Xu-Holland as Catherine Standish, Richard Sanderson as Dr. Hubbard, Jesse Kove as Hugh Johnson, Simon Twu as Chen Quan, Shigeo Kobayashi as Yoshinori Yumoto, Zach Ireland as David Marshall and Bruce Locke as the Elder Xu Niu.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings amazing quality motion picture and television productions. Such films as “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “Underworld Blood Wars” and “Passengers,” also available for your home entertainment library — there is so much more. To see more of what they have to offer, go to www.sonypictures.com.
I have intentionally left out details in my review because I truly want the viewer to have the chance to feel the film in every scene. “On Wings of Eagles: The Eric Liddell Story” is such a heartfelt film of love, family, friendship and loyalty that endures through a struggle that is unfathomable.
The cast draws us into a journey and an era that could sometimes be so unforgiving and incomprehensible yet brings out the best in people. From helping one another to finding friendship and help from the villagers outside the electric fences, it is a reminder that evil may seem so tall but good doesn’t need a yardstick.
In the end — it is the true story of hope!