I just love satellite/cable stations like Turner Classic Movies, Fox Movie Channel and Independent Film Channel since they enable me to see movies that I saw years ago and haven’t seen since thereby helping me cut down on rental fees. Or I can watch movies that somehow slipped by me during their original run. For instance, I recently saw “F.I.S.T” on FMC, a movie starring Sylvester Stallone where he played the head of a truckers union (the movie’s based very loosely on Jimmy Hoffa’s life and for a better movie on the subject watch the Danny DeVito directed “Hoffa”) and it was a highly entertaining film that proves that once upon a time, Stallone could act. I’d never seen “F.I.S.T.” before and I was glad of the chance to finally watch it. Which leads me to this particular review…
FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE caught my attention with the rousing theme song by Ron Goodwin, which is a stirring, heart-pumping military march that is just as good as John Williams’s classic “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” march or his theme for “1941” and when I saw the cast, I quickly grabbed some goodies and settled in to see just what this was going to be about.
First off, a lot of the cast looks like this film was an excuse to have a reunion for actors who have all at one time co-starred in James Bond films. You’ve got Robert Shaw (who played the assassin Red Grant in “From Russia With Love”) Barbara Bach (“The Spy Who Loved Me”) Richard Kiel (the steel-toothed assassin Jaws from “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker”) and Edward Fox (who played M in Sean Connery’s comeback Bond movie, “Never Say Never Again”) And the director is none other than Guy Hamilton who helmed no less than 4 Bond movies; “Live And Let Die” “The Man With The Golden Gun” “Goldfinger” and my favorite Connery Bond, “Diamonds Are Forever” Hamilton also directed one of the best and least appreciated action/adventure movies of the past 20 years: “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins”
So with a crew like that, plus Harrison Ford and Carl Weathers, I figured that the movie had to be pretty good and I was right. Oh, sure, it’s got plot holes big enough to throw a tank through and there are some slow spots where the characters stand around explaining things we already know, but on the whole, I had a great time watching this movie. If you like World War II action/adventures like “Kelly’s Heroes” “Where Eagles Dare” and “The Dirty Dozen” then you’ll be right at home with this one.
Even though it’s supposed to be a sequel to the classic Gregory Peck/David Niven/Anthony Quinn “The Guns of Navarone”, that earlier mission is hardly referred to. Harrison Ford is an American colonel heading to Yugoslavia with his ten-man team on a top secret mission (is there any other in movies like this?) and he is ordered to take along Shaw and Fox who have their own mission to accomplish. Ford doesn’t like it a bit but orders are orders and all that.
While Ford and his team steal an airplane for transport (it’s all part of the plan, don’t worry) they pick up Carl Weathers in a convoluted bit of plot twisting to enable a black man to be part of the team. It’s an awkward scene that eats up valuable screen time and reminded me of those scenes from early Schwartzenegger and Van Damme movies where the writers felt they had to stick in a scene to explain why Schwartzenegger and Van Damme were living in the U.S. but had Austrian and Belgian accents. Which I found really pointless since I live in New York and you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting somebody with an accent.
Right from the start, the mission is screwed and Ford’s team is wiped out leaving him with Shaw, Fox and Weathers to help him complete his mission: blow up a strategically important bridge that can’t be blown. Three previous teams tried and were all wiped out. Shaw makes a deal with Ford: help me do my mission and I’ll help you do yours. Ford isn’t too sure about this since Shaw’s mission is to assassinate a traitor who nearly wrecked the Navarone mission but Shaw’s got an ace up his sleeve: Fox’s character is the top demolition man in Europe (maybe in the world) and Shaw assures him that Fox alone can do what Ford’s ten men were supposed to do. So the deal is struck and the four set off on their adventure.
And quite the adventure it is. The movie is nothing but a series of fights, chases, captures and escapes. The four-man team is constantly being captured and betrayed by various characters that are rarely what they seem at first. It’s like everybody in this movie is a double or even triple agent and everything possible that can go wrong does. They have to fight their way in and out of Nazi strongholds, sneak into munitions depots to steal explosives, bargain with Yugoslavian freedom fighters who change sides at the drop of a shell casing, all the while trying to find out who the traitor Shaw is supposed to kill is and who he’s really working for. And after all that is done they still have to blow that damn bridge.
While the acting is nowhere near Oscar caliber, the cast and the director are all old hands at this kinda stuff and they all turn in serviceable acting jobs that support the material and genre they’re working in and no more. Nobody’s trying to win any awards with this one, and they all seem to be having a great time except for Harrison Ford who reportedly hated working on location in Yugoslavia, which probably accounts for the pissed-off scowl which is his main expression throughout the film. But I liked seeing the young, energetic Ford again and this movie will remind you why at one time he was the top action star in the world and his acting inexperience (this was his first major Hollywood film after a little thing he did called “Star Wars”) actually works since his Lt. Colonel Barnsby is an inexperienced field commander who is in way over his head and doesn’t want to admit it.
Robert Shaw and Edward Fox are the real acting stars of this movie and I liked the easy rapport they had. They quickly convinced me they were two solid friends who have worked together for a while now and who like and respect each other. They bark and bite at each other like an old married couple that bicker and fuss but who work splendidly well together and they have all the best lines in the movie as they calmly comment on and criticize the frantic action going on around them in droll, British accents. Shaw in particular has a beautiful piece of creative bullshit when he convinces a Nazi general who’s captured them that the Force 10 Team are all actually deserters and Fox picks up on it and effortlessly continues the line of bull. Watch Ford’s expressions during the scene as he struggles to try and keep up with the two old pros who were talking their way out of Nazi traps when he was still in basic training.
Carl Weathers is one of the most underrated actors in film history. He’s done some splendid work in films like “Predator”, the “Rocky” series and the off-the-hook “Action Jackson” (and I’m still waiting on the sequel to that one, dammit!) as well as television series like ‘In The Heat Of The Night’ and ‘Fortune Dane’. He primarily works here as a way for the other characters to have a way to explain things that they already know without looking stupid, since his character has no idea what he was getting into when he stowed away aboard their plane but he’s got some good scenes and a brutally suspenseful knife fight with Richard Kiel near the movie’s end.
FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE isn’t the sort of movie I’d tell you to wait up until 2AM to see or run out to rent right away, but it is a highly enjoyable WWII adventure that’s just right for a weekend afternoon’s viewing when there’s nothing else on and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed at all. Don’t strain too hard trying to make sense of the many twists and turns of the plot and just enjoy the action on the screen and those wonderful Fox and Shaw performances.
FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff
Written by Robin Chapman and Carl Foreman
Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean118 Minutes