Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Force 10 from Navarone – Harrison Ford in Predictable World War II Intrigue

Written by Alistair MacLean, Robin Chapman, and Carl Foreman
Directed by Guy Hamilton

I can remember years ago the television promotional spot for this movie. It accentuated the role of Harrison Ford, fresh off his success in the original Star Wars, hoping to ride its coattails to a successful box office.

Robert Shaw and Harrison Ford star in this 1978 sequel to the Guns of Navarone. Navarone itself is an island in the Aegean Sea from which the Germans were able to strategically strike against the Allies during World War II.

The story behind Guns of Navarone is somewhat recapped in the beginning for those who don’t know. A group of Allied commandos infiltrated the gun encampments on the island and set them to explode, then made their escape.

One of the people thought executed in that raid has been pegged as a German spy, and is possibly still alive. Maj. Keith Mallory (portrayed by Robert Shaw) and Ssgt. Dusty Miller (portrayed by Edward Fox) joins up with the elite Force 10 as they are about to embark on a “need to know” mission into Yugoslavia. The leader of Force 10, Lt. Colonel Michael Barnsby (portrayed by Harrison Ford) doesn’t want them along but accepts his superior’s orders.

As they are trying to make a clandestine departure from an airbase in Italy, a group of MPs mistakenly thinks something is up and tries to stop them. They manage to escape, but not before picking up a hitch-hiker on the mission in Sgt. Weaver (portrayed by Carl Weathers), an Army Medic.

When their plane is shot down, the men must all work together to complete both missions.

It’s no surprise that Force 10 from Navarone was directed by the same person who directed the James Bond flick Goldfinger, Guy Hamilton. Force 10 from Navarone has the look and feel of a Bond movie with a lot of action as well as intrigue as to just what side various people were working for.

The plot is intriguing and kept me intrigued, doling out information in scant amounts, just whetting my appetite for what was coming next. Were there issues with believability? Of course. But Force 10 from Navarone was done in the rah-rah, cheer them on the style of many films depicting the Second World War. We know who the good guys are and we know that in the end, they will win, no matter what happens here. Still, it is a fun movie to watch. I also didn’t need to view the original Guns of Navarone to get a handle on the plot.

The acting is good. Although Harrison Ford has been highlighted due to his rising star status at the time and his subsequent superstar status, it’s Robert Shaw and Edward Fox who are the real stars of the show, with their calm self-assuredness as they set about to complete their mission despite the obstacles placed in their path.

And the obstacles are many. Seemingly on the other side of the coin are Richard Kiel and Barbara Bach in the mountains of Yugoslavia. Bach shows off her best assets to move the film along. Kiel was becoming a staple character actor at the time with appearances in Bond flicks as well and he’s suitable to the character here without really being comic relief.

Carl Weathers seems a bit out of place. Knowing the history of racism during the Second World War, where units were still quite segregated, his role seems implausible and it’s almost like he is thrown in there as a token. The role is good and what he is given to do does have some meat to it, but it just didn’t seem realistic to history. Suspend disbelief in this instance and you’ll be all right.

The transfer to DVD is somewhat lacking. Usually when I view a movie in “widescreen”, it fits the screen of my notebook computer, no problem. In the case of Force 10 from Navarone, it’s a rectangular inset in the screen, making it even smaller than usual. At times it was grainy as well. The color was uneven with shots of the sky appearing a rich blue and then at other times seeming to be washed out. The sound is somewhat tinny, especially when the background music is brought more to the forefront. A better job could have been done. There are also no extras on the DVD.

Force 10 from Navarone is a good World War II movie, even if it is somewhat predictable. There were no real surprises to the outcome, although the intrigue as to who is on what side and what their motivations are is handled pretty well. It’s entertaining and light without putting us on an emotional level with the characters the way a film like Saving Private Ryan does.