Saturday, 13 June 2015

Who Dares Wins (1982)

Lewis Collins plays Peter Skellen, an SAS trooper, who goes too far during a training mission and leaves the service rather than be RTU'ed. Skellen with time on his hands and chip on his shoulder joins up with a far left-wing political organisation who want to step up from the usual protests (the anti-cruise theatre piece is hilarious in it's liberal hippy artiness!) to full-blown terrorist acts.

Who Dares Wins (known as The Final Option in the US) was made back in 1982 when men had names like Peter and Terry and Rod, moustaches were rife and there were real political and social movements and not just the fart in a hurricane Facebook whinging that most of us are guilty of nowadays. This was a time when Reagan and Thatcher's foreign policy, an ever expanding nuclear arsenal and a resurgence of the "reds under the bed" fear of the 1950's McCarthy era was driving the Soviet Union to bankruptcy. Set against the CND and Greenham Common protests of the 80's and riding on the Nationalist euphoria after the Iranian Embassy siege the film has an obvious right-wing "kill the commies" feel to it and like most revolutionary movements, it portrays a battle between middle-class liberals and middle-class fascists with the workers dying in the middle.

I've seen this countless times over the years and, I guess, nostalgia allows me to see past the flaws and dodgy politics.

As far as accuracy goes; 22 SAS Regiment helped train the actors and actually took part in the seige in the film's third act. We see the famous SAS killing house where allegedly Thatcher acted the part of a hostage during a live fire exercise. Their training takes place in the Brecon Beacons where the SAS train and recruits undergo the Selection process. So accuracy is a given it seems.

The cinematography is ok, sort of TV like but serves it's purpose. There is a stirring score by Roy Budd of Get Carter fame. There are loads of bad clothes and even worse hairstyles. Then there's the cast: TV hard man Lewis Collins as a Flashman (or Flashheart if you like) type, full of testosterone and bravado; Edward fucking Woodward! Brendan Gleeson lookalike Tony Doyle as a shouty "Rupert"; TV stalwart John Duttine; the beautiful and talented Ingrid Pitt; Richard Widmark; Judy Davis having a bad hair week; the square-jawed and wonderfully voiced Patrick Allen; and a list of other great British and American actors. You'll spend the entire film going "hey isn't that...".

The final incursion by the SAS is thrilling and explosive, and from what I can remember of the Iranian Embassy hostage siege, very accurate. In fact one of the troopers being set alight by a burning curtain caused by a flash-bang mirrors an incident in the Embassy siege. Regarding this hostage situation; the terrorist's demand is wholly unrealistic and more could have been done to insert a sub-plot here that involved using this as cover for another more devious plot (a'la Die Hard).

Is there such a sub-genre as "Special Forces Exploitation"? If so then this is one of the very best, but leave your political sensibilities at the door.

Letterboxd Review

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