Han Solo Fights the Germans
"Force 10 from Navarone" is not a bad movie; well it wouldn't be a bad movie if it wasn't the sequel to "The Guns of Navarone" one of the most popular war movies ever made. But because it is the sequel, a sequel which came 17 years later, you can't but help compare it and it doesn't hold up well in comparison. The connections are weak, the recasting of the two main characters is wrong and the whole tone of it is vastly different with its more jokey feel, not to ignore the fact it is seriously far fetched. But the irony is if you compare it to other war movies from the late 70s and early 80s such as "The Sea Wolves" and "Escape to Athena" it is quite good.
2 years after the mission on Navarone Mallory (Robert Shaw - Jaws) and Miller (Edward Fox) are back and are assigned another mission, to go after a traitor from the Navarone mission who turned out to be a German spy. With the spy supposedly in Yugoslavia Mallory and Miller join up with Colonel Barnsby (Harrison Ford) who along with his elite group of men are heading to Yugoslavia for another mission. But when their plane is shot down and they are tricked by a group of German Allies masquerading as Partisans both missions are forced to take a back seat for a while.
So "Force 10 from Navarone" is a mixed bag of positives and negatives and one of the first negatives to hit you comes after a short refresher where we discover that the two returning characters of Mallory and Miller have been cast, so out with Peck and Niven and in with Robert Shaw and Edward Fox. Now there is a reason for Mallory and Miller to return as it provides not only the link through the characters but sets up the first part of the storyline with them being sent on a mission to eliminate a traitor/ German ally who had been part of the original Navarone mission. It's an inexplicably weak connection and whilst Shaw and Fox bring something different to the movie it would have been so much better with Peck and Niven, who ironically just 2 years later were donning their action clothes for another WWII movie "The Sea Wolves".
Whilst this storyline of Mallory and Miller going after the traitor does pop up every now and then, especially during the final section, it is really only a lead in to having Mallory and Miller being stuck on enemy ground with Colonel Barnsby who has his own mission to get done. And it is Barnsby's mission which really becomes the main focus of the movie as he is supposed to blow up a crucial bridge. It's not a bad storyline but to actually get to that point we do go through a series of contrived set ups from the small group of men being tricked by German Allies who pretend to be Partisans, escape attempts, explosive thefts, female double agents and a whole lot more. Basically "Force 10 from Navarone" seems to throw one far fetched cliche after another at you until eventually it focuses on the job at hand and that is destroying the bridge and even then it's not that straightforward.
Now another issue, especially if you loved "The Guns of Navarone" is that "Force 10 from Navarone" is a much more light hearted movie, not so much a comedy but full of witty moments. We have Miller who carries a suit case of fireworks around with him; there is the constant banter and a distinct lack of realism as well. To be honest it's not that bad and the wit is in keeping with other war movies from the late 70s but it does make the movie border on being a farce.
This element of being light hearted extends to the characters with Mallory, Miller and Barnsby all being amusing characters in one way or another. But Robert Shaw, Edward Fox and Harrison Ford deliver the witty banter and their characters nicely especially Ford who gives Barnsby the same attitude and charisma as Han Solo which has to be said is quite good fun. Else where things are not quite so good and sadly Carl Weathers is cast as the token black man, a role which could have been ironic if done properly and whilst Richard Kiel is an imposing figure he is also a very awkward one as Drazak.
What this all boils down to is that as a sequel "Force 10 from Navarone" is not a good movie but as one of the WWII movies made at the end of the 70s it works. If you can get over the fact that all that was good about "The Guns of Navarone" is missing then "Force 10 from Navarone" will entertain but in a very different manner.