Director: Ian Sharp
Screenplay: Reginald Rose & George Markstein
Based on the book by: James Follett
Producer: Euan Lloyd
Starring: Lewis Collins, Judy Davis, Richard Widmark, Edward Woodward
Country: UK & Switzerland
BBFC Certification: 15
Duration: 125 min
P.S. Apologies for the poor images, I don’t have the facilities to get Blu-Ray screen grabs and this film is too obscure to find decent images on the net.
A really odd choice for a 2-disc special edition Blu-Ray re-release, Who Dares Wins (aka The Final Option) is a British action thriller from the early 80’s which, although mildly successful, got fairly panned on it’s release and has spent the last decade in DVD bargain-bins. I think it must have cult credentials, but it has to have a tiny following if any as there are very few reviews of the film online. Arrow Films however deemed it worthy of the spit and polish treatment and kindly sent me a copy to cast my critical eye over.
Who Dares Wins is largely an advert for the SAS (the title is the regiment’s slogan) and was inspired by the famous siege of the Iranian embassy in London in 1980. TV star and SAS trainee (supposedly denied entry due to his fame) Lewis Collins plays Captain Peter Skellen, an SAS soldier who fakes a dishonourable discharge in order to work under cover in a political group called The People’s Lobby. The group is seemingly a bunch of peace-loving activists intent on disarming the world’s nuclear armaments, but is actually a front for a terrorist group (I’ll touch on the loopy politics later). Skellen gets up close and personal with the female leader Frankie Leith (played by Judy Davis) and eventually discovers that they plan to take a group of politicians, military leaders and dignitaries hostage, promising their release only if the government fires a nuclear missile on an evacuated area of Scotland to show the world the true level of destruction a warhead of this kind can cause.
It’s a film where your enjoyment and appreciation really depends on how seriously you take it (thus the middle of the road rating). As the synopsis above describes, the film’s plot is very silly and the politics, which feature heavily, are questionable and dangerously right-wing at times. However, if you can push those elements aside, it is actually quite an enjoyable but guilty pleasure. For me, once Roy Budd’s funky score kicked in and we’re shown an SAS training scenario that looks like a Bond film’s gadget testing area I switched my brain off and actually had quite a good time. The film’s finale helped too with the SAS manoeuvres portrayed in fast brutal strokes that made for some fairly authentic feeling and exhilarating moments. For a modestly budgeted British film that is as old as I am the action is very well handled and gives the film a strong appeal in a trashy genre movie sort of way. There’s even a first-person sequence which pre-dates Doom and Kick-Ass by more than twenty years.
However, you are constantly ‘treated’ to a lot of rubbish too. Scenes where the terrorists train by using peace signs as target practice and an impassioned speech by the Secretary of State that practically talks the terrorist leader out of her beliefs are simply laughable and demonstrate the armchair pundit level of political discourse in the film. The script is pretty weak in general, with holes-a-plenty in the plot and plenty of ropey bits of dialogue. The terrorists are incredibly dumb too, falling for every half-arsed trick the SAS throw at them (the way that Skellen manages to bed Leith within minutes of spouting cornball lines is baffling), not to mention the ridiculous ransom demands themselves. It’s admirable that the filmmakers give the terrorists more of a human face and an understandable cause, but they fail miserably in actually making any of it convincing or intelligent.
So really the film is no work of art by any description, but if like me you’re partial to a bit of trashy 80’s action then there is fun to be had, just don’t at any point try to take it seriously or you’ll be hugely disappointed.
Who Dares Wins is released on Blu-Ray on April 5th in the UK, distributed by Arrow Films. It includes a director and producer commentary, an interesting vintage making-of and a documentary on the producer Euan Lloyd.
RowThree's UK correspondent.