Force 10 from Navarone (1978)
Force 10 from Navarone (1978)

Genre: Action and War Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min.

Release Date: December 8th, 1978 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Guy Hamilton Actors: Robert Shaw, Harrison Ford, Barbara Bach, Edward Fox, Franco Nero, Carl Weathers, Richard Kiel, Alan Badel, Michael Byrne, Angus MacInnes

 


 

D

eep in the heart of the Aegean Sea lies the island of Navarone, which, during WWII, proved a powerful strategic locale. With two massive guns perched atop a fortified stronghold, the German army had a striking defense and antagonism over naval conduct. But a specially trained Allied commando group managed to infiltrate the station, planting explosives to destroy the weapons (summed up in a voiceover narration and choice footage from the critically-acclaimed movie “The Guns of Navarone”).

It’s now 1943, and English officers Major (formerly Captain) Mallory (Robert Shaw) and Staff Sergeant “Milly” Miller (Edward Fox) are tasked with locating and assassinating a German spy named Captain Nikolai Lescovar (Franco Nero). Although the duo are considerably older (Miller is actually a mere civilian until a last-minute reinstatement), they’re to be ferried from Italy by an elite team of Allied troops involved in a Yugoslavian mission codenamed “Force 10,” helmed by U.S. Ranger Lieutenant Colonel Barnsby (Harrison Ford). The colonel is miffed by the notion (“My men are all young and in top physical shape”), but he follows the orders, planning a midnight theft of a plane, which results in a skirmish with MPs, a hasty getaway, and the unintentional picking up of a prisoner (Carl Weathers as Sergeant Weaver), all before an explosive dogfight and a perilous parachuting into hostile territory.

The music (by Ron Goodwin) retains an older feel, something lighthearted and upbeat, which doesn’t quite fit with the updated visuals and violence. There’s plenty of action at the start, though it too is of an outmoded variety – and the kind that’s staged poorly enough that it doesn’t inspire much tension. Despite being a movie from the late ’70s, the design, the structuring, and the character interactions and conversations appear as if from the ’50s or ’60s. There’s something entirely phony about the levity on display – a set of behaviors that worked a decade or two earlier when severer themes were uniformly handled with kid gloves – that mixes unconvincingly with bloodshed, nudity, machine gun shooting, threats of death, and the general realism of more modern, edgier filmmaking.

The counterfeit vibe extends even to the unveiling of double agents and the tall tales told to befuddle inept villains; responses and reactions rarely reflect the real dangers of WWII theaters. And the story itself, though loosely based on Alistair MacLean’s novel, comes across as a mediocre derivation – and rehash – of the 1961 original, repeating stratagems and moving an isolated squadron from one battleground to the next in a somewhat random pattern, as if new missions of daredevilry are being devised on the spot. Fortunately, the heroes are limited; rather than an oversized group, the members of Force 10 are almost immediately reduced down to two (including Angus MacInnes as Doug Reynolds), making their endeavors more harrowing – even if they’re notably silly (a dead German officer is posed like a puppet, complete with a marionette-rigged salute).

Although the plot is a bit of a bore (maneuvering its way toward a premise reminiscent of “The Bridge on the River Kwai”), the actors are amusing, chiefly due to where this picture lies in their filmographies. Weathers’ next project would see him immortalized as Apollo Creed; Ford was in between “Star Wars” entries; Barbara Bach, playing femme fatale Maritza Petrovich, just appeared as a Bond girl; and Richard Kiel, in between appearances as 007 antagonist Jaws, is instantly recognizable (also costarring with Bach in 1977’s “The Spy Who Loved Me”). Even the primary Nazi baddie, Major Schroeder (Michael Byrne), would go on to work with Ford again (in a similar role) in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Ultimately, however, watching these stars in a largely forgettable, anachronistically-toned war picture is middle-of-the-road entertainment at best.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10