In the following years, the director said, his initial idea of telling Liddell’s story in a film expanded into a more personal project devoted to understanding Liddell’s life in China. He and his collaborators consulted with Liddell’s daughters, who live in Canada, as well as the Eric Liddell Center in Edinburgh. They tracked down survivors of the camp ”” most were children at the time ”” and interviewed Chinese people who had lived nearby.
Eventually, in addition to making “The Last Race,” they also produced a documentary and compiled a book using the material they had gathered.
The film first shows Liddell, played by Joseph Fiennes, trudging into an internment camp in 1943, then flashes back to the eastern port of Tianjin and his years in the city as a teacher and missionary after his Olympic victory. After the Japanese invade, he sends his pregnant wife (Elizabeth Arends) and their two daughters to Canada.
At the camp with hundreds of other civilians from Allied countries, including Americans, British, Canadians and Australians, he becomes a quiet but steadfast leader, helping to obtain food and supplies for other prisoners with the assistance of some sympathetic Chinese.