Thursday, February 9, 2012

Force 10 from Navarone (1978)

          An unnecessary but harmless sequel to a classic action movie, Force 10 from Navarone slots replacement actors into the leading roles from The Guns of Navarone (1961); it also substitutes the simplistic men-on-a-mission vibe of the earlier film with a convoluted storyline comprising rampant double-crosses. As a result, Force 10 lacks the clarity and star power of its predecessor. At the end of The Guns of Navarone, World War II British commandoes Mallory (Gregory Peck) and Miller (David Niven) head home for England after blowing up an enemy installation in Nazi-occupied Greece. Force 10 picks up a short while later, when Mallory (Robert Shaw) and Miller (Edward Fox) are recruited to kill a dangerous double agent embedded with rebel forces in Yugoslavia.
          For reasons that are never particularly clear, the duo gets attached to “Force 10,” an American commando unit headed to Yugoslavia for a mysterious mission, and this understandably irritates Force 10’s no-nonsense leader, Barnsby (Harrison Ford). Thereafter, the movie’s narrative gets really contrived. First, an American soldier under military arrest, Weaver (Carl Weathers), escapes captivity and sneaks onto Force 10’s plane. Then, upon arrival in Yugoslavia, Mallory and Miller must track the shifting allegiances of a monstrous Yugoslavian (Richard Kiel), a beautiful rebel fighter (Barbara Bach), and the man who may or may not be their assassination target (Franco Nero). Oh, and there’s also the whole business of Force 10’s mission, which involves blowing up a bridge.
          Force 10 from Navarone is so over-plotted that character development is a casualty, but the movie zips along nicely thanks to attractive location photography and crisp direction by Bond-movie veteran Guy Hamilton. The picture has some enjoyable macho highlights, like Weathers’ duel with Kiel—how totally ’70s to see a knife fight between Apollo Creed and “Jaws” from the 007 movies! Additionally, Bach provides the requisite sex appeal, Nero smolders as we try to determine whether he’s a hero or a villain, and Fox scores a few laughs as a pip-pip Brit with a perpetual even keel. The climax has some groovy miniature effects, too.
          However, the movie hinges on the leading performances, and they’re a mixed bag. Shaw, apparently enjoying his post-Jaws run of action-hero roles, is atypically lighthearted, but Ford is lifeless. Shooting his first big action movie after Star Wars, he seems determined to present a characterization with more gravitas than his Han Solo performance, but this movie is far too slight to support understated acting. Nonetheless, Ford’s participation is probably why Force 10 from Navarone has been a cable-TV staple since the early ’80s, and it’s interesting to see the actor finding his way before Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) secured his status as a cinematic icon.

Force 10 from Navarone: FUNKY

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