Force 10 from Navarone
Distributed by: American International Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I was sitting up late one night and happened upon a film starring Harrison Ford that I never knew existed. Airing in theaters in 1978, Force 10 from Navarone was based on a sequel novel of the same name written by Alistair MacLean. The original novel, The Guns of Navarone, also was adapted into a movie which starred Gregory Peck and David Niven. That movie was a box office smash. Force 10 from Navarone was considered a box office failure. Yet, I found the movie highly entertaining.
In Force 10 from Navarone, the heroes of The Guns of Navarone, Keith Mallory and John Miller having survived the plot to destroy the enemy’s greatest weapon, have moved on. Mallory (previously portrayed by Peck and now portrayed by Robert Shaw) is a Major in the British military, suffering from a war injury to his leg, but doing well in spite of it. John Miller (previously played by Niven and now portrayed by Edward Fox) is a civilian who still has an affection for all things explosive. The two are sent for by Commander Jensen and told that they will be working with an undercover Allied operation in Yugoslavia. It is there that they are to find and kill a spy believed to be working with the Yugoslav Partisans.
Unfortunately, their addition to “Force 10” is quite unexpected and less than welcome. Lieutenant Colonel Mike Barnsby (Harrison Ford) already has a team of younger, well-trained men and believes that Mallory and Miller may compromise the safety of the mission. He begrudgingly takes them on, but warns them to keep up. On the airstrip in Italy, Barnsby’s men run into some MP trouble, but are quickly aided by MP prisoner US Army Sergeant Weaver (Carl Weathers) and some quick maneuvers by the Mallory and Miller. They all board an aircraft to Yugoslavia which is shot down before reaching its destination. Losing several of his men, Barnsby is forced to accept the aide of stowaway Weaver and his two British counterparts.
When they are captured by Chetniks collaborating with the German Army and posing as Yugoslav Partisans, it is up to Mallory and Barnsby to work together to escape and find the real Partisans. Upon revealing Force 10’s true mission, Mallory realizes why it was so important to bring along Miller. If Force 10 is to bring down the concrete arch bridge and destroy plans by the Wehrmacht to cross the bridge and command a devastating military victory, Miller’s demolitions expertise will be needed.
Barnsby and Mallory, with the help of the suspicious Captain Lescovar (Franco Nero) devise a plan to enter the Chetnik camp and free their unit. But even if they succeed in freeing the unit and getting back to the Partisans alive, how will Force 10 destroy a virtually impregnable bridge in time to stop the German Army?
Now, this may have been a box office flop at the time, but it sure made for a great late night movie for me. I enjoyed the idea of two military styles joined together for seemingly conflicting missions only to discover that they are actually able to assist each other in their goals. There is action in just about every scene in this film, in the form of an air fight, hand-to-hand fighting on the ground, explosions and shoot-outs. Action film aficionados may be a bit disappointed at the special effects, but they will have to remember what year this movie was made in. After all, with what was available at the time, I don’t think they did so bad with the effects in this film.
As for the acting, Harrison Ford seems a bit stilted in the beginning and is definitely not a likeable character, but he seems to warm up to the role as the movie goes forward and becomes a character the audience wants to survive. I never saw The Guns of Navarone, but I think that, although not as serious as Gregory Peck and David Niven might have been in the roles of Mallory and Miller, Robert Shaw and Edward Fox were viable replacements. I happened to enjoy the feigned bungling of Miller as portrayed by Fox. Carl Weathers seemed a tad out of his league here acting-wise, but I enjoyed his fighting scenes. I never really watched him for his acting anyway. Franco Nero was excellent in his role as Lescovar, but it wasn’t his speaking role that attracted my attention. Nero’s facial expressions represented some fantastic acting and told the audience everything they needed to know about his character.
Force 10 from Navarone has everything a fan would want in an action film: a seemingly impossible mission, plenty of explosions and shooting, lots of fighting and an interesting and eventually loveable cast of characters…and I do mean Characters. Yes, it’s an older film, so you will have to take that into consideration during some of the explosive scenes, but if you can put aside disappointment at the lack of better effects, I’m sure you can appreciate what went into the creation of this film. Force 10 from Navarone is a fun adventure and I’m glad I was able to catch it on late night television and eventually add it to my DVD collection.