Written by Bernard Cornwell and Russell Lewis
Directed by Tom Clegg
Sixteen installments in a made-for-television series is pretty impressive, especially after the star of the series has gained some fame. This is one of the reasons it was surprising that Sean Bean agreed to reprise the role of Lt. Col. Richard Sharpe in 2008. It was a role he began portraying in 1993 when pretty much no one knew who he was. He’s had a few successful films in the interim. I give him a lot of credit for returning to his roots.
Sharpe’s Peril picks up almost immediately following the events of the previous installment, Sharpe’s Challenge. Sharpe and Harper (portrayed by Daragh O’Malley) are trying to head home from India when they are summoned by a local governor. He requests that Sharpe help put down a disturbance, which Sharpe declines as he is no longer in the service. However, Sharpe and Harper do get roped into transporting Marie-Angelique (portrayed by Beatrice Rosen), who is the fiancée of an officer, with them as they return.
As they travel on a baggage train, they meet up with a variety of others including prisoners, soldiers, officers of the East India Company, and an East India Princess. The train is attacked by what appears to be bandits, but there is much more going on here. Sharpe takes charge, and ends up leading this rag-tag band to a garrison that has also been victimized by the same “bandits”. The remaining company of British red-coats at the garrison are being led by a young boy.
Sharpe’s Peril is good, even if it’s predictable. I pretty much knew what was going to play out in the story despite not having read or heard it before. Still, the attention to detail of the period and the great acting go a long way to redeeming what could otherwise be a tired film. The cast has aged, which is to be expected, but does a fine job otherwise. It just doesn’t have the same flare that the original fourteen installments of the series did.
Whether it was the setting of India versus Europe as the older installments were that hurt this, I can’t say. They did go to the expense of actually traveling to India to film rather than try to make it look like they were in India while sitting on a soundstage in London. There are a few moments where extras weren’t behaving as they should and probably should have been CGI’d out. I normally wouldn’t be this nit-picky, but I wasn’t looking for anything like that and I noticed it.
Bean is still great as Sharpe. Despite ten years between Sharpe’s Waterloo and Sharpe’s Challenge, he portrays the character pretty seamlessly. He falls into the role quite well with the same dedication to duty while at the same time seeming to have contempt for all who don’t follow his lead and his orders. Daragh O’Malley has noticeably changed and fills out a uniform much more than he did in the past. Although he might not have the same grace in a fight that he once did, he still manages to nail the role.
The guest cast is fine if spread a little thin. It was almost as if there were too many to pay attention to, and too much time spent on individual stories. This was probably closer to what it was like at the time with so many people interacting rather than what we’re used to with a small core cast of characters seeming to represent the thousands upon thousands of soldiers who fought the enemy.
There are a few extras on the DVD, including a featurette on making Sharpe’s Peril, most of which had to do with filming in India. It was fun to watch people’s reactions to Sean Bean now that he was so famous. There’s also a movie-length cut of the film to watch as well. I didn’t notice that much of a difference to say that one cut was better than the other.
If you’re interested in the Sharpe series based on Bernard Cornwell’s books, I would go back and watch them from the beginning rather than just grabbing this installment. The earlier ones really were magnificent. While Sharpe’s Peril is a fine story and a lot of fun to see Sharpe and Harper reunited after so many years, it didn’t have the same feel as the earlier ones.
• Movie version
• The Making of Sharpe’s Peril
• Photo Gallery
Previous episode of the series (link): Sharpe’s Challenge