Written by Eoghan Harris and Bernard Cornwell
Directed by Tom Clegg
The Franco-Spanish Frontier, 1813 – The French Army is in full retreat from Spain, but Napoleon is planning a surprise counter-attack. To succeed he must first flush out and capture Wellington’s master spy – El Mirador.
Major Richard Sharpe (Sean Bean) is on patrol with his men when he comes across a man who is trying to pass himself off as a French dragoon who doesn’t speak English. Sharpe is suspicious, especially when he finds the man in possession of one of the finest swords ever made. However, Sharpe’s interrogation of the man is interrupted by the arrival of Colonel Berkeley (Stephen Moore) who takes possession of the prisoner. They flush out a mysterious woman (Emily Mortimer) in the bush who attaches herself to Sharpe, but can’t or won’t speak.
As somewhat of a distraction from the main story, Harper (Daragh O’Malley) is having problems with his woman, Ramona (Diana Perez). Ramona wants to marry Harper. Harper is resistant to the idea since bringing a Spanish wife and child home to Ireland wouldn’t go over with his mother or his fellow countrymen.
Sharpe is then sent on a mission to help protect the mysterious spy, El Mirador, from the French Colonel who is trying to take him out. Sharpe is insistent that the man he has captured is the French Colonel, Leroux, but Colonel Berkeley won’t listen. Of course, eventually Sharpe is proven right. Soon afterward, an old nemesis appears in Colonel Simmerson (Michael Cochrane), whom Sharpe witnessed losing the colors in Sharpe’s Eagle.
For the first time in the series of fourteen tele-films, the story wasn’t entirely wrapped around Sharpe. This was a nice departure. There was the side story of Harper being torn in his personal life. Instead of Sharpe figuring out the code and saving the day, one of his men is the hero in that respect. It almost seems like more of an ensemble piece rather than just one man as the ultimate hero, and it’s a good point in the series of films for it to go this way. Having Sharpe solve every problem and save the day every single time can end up pushing the limits of credibility.
The return of Simmerson here is a good plot twist. Michael Cochrane is great as the bumbling British Officer who manages to alienate just about everyone around him. He knows his place and future is secure because of his noble birth and societal position, and conveys this in his action and every conversation. His adjutant, Jack (James Purefoy) is also excellent, providing a bit of insight into what’s kept Simmerson rising to the top. The people surrounding Simmerson don’t share the same attitude and Jack is a breath of fresh air. He’s also seemingly Sharpe’s equal in many ways; not in the least bit being as easy on the eyes.
The bond between Sharpe and Harper is as strong as ever. This is shown in Sharpe’s counsel to Harper with his personal strife as well as Harper’s care for Sharpe when he’s apparently mortally wounded. Each film has deepened the bond between the men and it’s grown gradually and believably. Here it culminates in Sharpe doing something in the final scene which could leave Harper angry with him forever, but the bond is so strong that even Harper realizes that Sharpe knew what he was doing and doesn’t get angry.
What sets Sharpe’s Sword apart in many ways though is the relationship between Sharpe and Lass, the woman he finds hiding in the bushes. Emily Mortimer has hardly any lines to speak, but she carries herself through the film conveying her thoughts through her body language and actions. The scenes between Lass and Simmerson are excellent. None of the women in the series except for Sharpe’s wife Teresa (killed off in an earlier film) held their own with Sharpe the way Lass does, and she manages it with very little dialogue.
There’s no lack of swordplay, battles and fights in Sharpe’s Sword and they are excellent. Although not perfect, this film is good and carries on the story with good character development. The DVD print still seems a bit on the grainy side, and the sound seemed to vary. I found myself adjusting the sound a few times throughout the film which is a bit of a distraction. Still, I enjoyed Sharpe’s Sword quite a bit and if you like swashbuckling historic pieces, you will too.