Not Enough Dare for Dirk to Dazzle
The year is 1941 and Lieut. Graham (Dirk Bogarde) is given a mission to lead a group of commandos and Greek navigators onto a Greek Island and destroy two Fascist airfields. With just four days to get on the island, sneak across it by night, blow up the airfields and hopefully make their exit the way they got on it is a mission fraught with danger and not all coming from the enemy soldiers as Graham finds himself struggling as a leader.
Now I would guess that "They Who Dare" must have been written using various real events as its basis but I can't say that the storyline is really that thrilling. The problem is its familiarity as we watch the exploits of commandos on a dangerous mission and that storyline is so well used that it's hard to make it work. So what we get is almost a paint it by numbers storyline as the commandos get together, get transported to the island, try to sneak their way to the airfields before planting explosives and then get back off. You can easily predict various things which come up from certain people dying or getting caught through to who the survivors will be. And so by the time "They Who Dare" finishes it hasn't thrown up a single surprise when it comes to the storyline.
But that is just part of the issue as because the danger of the mission, the trying to sneak across the island and then plant the explosives lacks excitement and adrenalin. There is plenty of danger and action thrown in but none of it lifts you out of your seat as once more it's all expected, almost cliche. And this is a major disappointment as "They Who Dare" should be all about the exciting daring of these men, the close scrapes and ingenuity of getting themselves out of a mess but it is none of this.
And sadly the acting doesn't help matters; Dirk Bogarde for me is wrongly cast as the leader of this bunch of commandos. So Bogarde is handsome, he has a heroic look about him, but his characterisation of Lieut. Graham is just wrong making him an extremely poor leader. There are no rallying speeches, no real heroic leadership just a character who is more one of the guys than a leader of men. Maybe the script called for this, maybe Lieut. Graham was meant to be a weak leader but for a movie which should be all about bravado it doesn't work and as such nor does the casting of Dirk Bogarde.
Matters are made worse because Dirk Bogarde is central to everything and so he dominates pretty much every scene and the knock on effect is that the supporting cast blend into the background. Denholm Elliott as Sergeant Corcoran, William Russell as Lieut. Poole and Michael Mellinger as Toplis for the most go by unnoticed because they are so poorly served by a script which focuses on the character of Lieut. Graham. And whilst you don't expect anything more than flat characters from this sort of war movie it just feels wrong that those supporting characters are so unimportant.
What this all boils down to is that unfortunately "They Who Dare" is a rather mediocre war movie. There is very little about it which is noteworthy and feels inferior to other war movies which have used a similar storyline to greater effect, most notably "The Guns of Navarone". It doesn't help that whilst Dirk Bogarde is handsome he just doesn't make for a believable leader of men and so the whole bravado, action side of "They Who Dare" seems rather weak.