19 March 2008

Sharpe's Sword

Sharpe’s Sword Familiar, but Still Good

By Kristin Battestella

You would think there’s nothing new to say about Sharpe’s Sword- the eighth film in the British television series. In some ways, actually, there isn’t. Sharpe’s Sword retreads familiar ground, but refreshes the oft-told storyline with romance, villainy, and charm.

Sword opens with French Colonel Leroux (Patrick Fierry) ambushing a religious convoy. Only young Lass (Emily Mortimer) escapes, too shocked to say anything when Major Richard Sharpe (Sean Bean) and his men rescue her. Sharpe also captures Leroux in a skirmish, but he has switched coats with his aide and claims to be a simple soldier. Sharpe doubts Leroux’s story, but is tied by Major Munro (Hugh Ross) and Lord Jack Spears (James Purefoy) ruling against him. Sharpe and Spears, however, become friends on their mission. Munro needs them to ensure the safety of Wellington’s master spy, El Matador. Unfortunately, Sharpe’s nemesis Sir Henry Simmerson (Michael Cochrane) runs the politics impeding Sharpe’s way.

There’s a lot to cover in Sharpe’s Sword and yet it can read like the likes of fan fiction: Sharpe Beds Mute Girl. On one hand the storylines in Sword seem a bit preposterous, yet they are dang good, too. Everyone has something to do here. Sharpe and each guest star, Harper, Harris, Hagman, Ramona. Everyone has a chance to prove his or her love, loyalty, worth, honor, or villainy. Not as ridiculous as Sharpe’s Gold, but Sword even has a bit of realistic mysticism to it. The power of a love, loyalty, and religion is examined well here.

Like Sharpe’s Battle before, Sean Bean’s titular character is not necessarily the star of this episode. Sure everything that happens does so because of him, but Bean spends a large portion of the film convalescing. Sword is carried by the fine performances of Daragh O’Malley, Diana Perez as Ramona, and Emily Mortimer as Lass. It’s never easy to act without speaking, and the ambiguity of Mortimer and John Kavanagh as Father Curtis add to the story. The villains are vile as ever. It is quite bad on my part, but I couldn’t tell if Spears really didn’t have an arm or not. But of course I looked up where I had seen Purefoy before, and well, Rome, yeah, he’s got both arms! Good film trickery and acting all around.

Sharpe’s Sword fortunately utilizes new locations this time around. I don’t know how authentic the fort is, but it looks cool. The monastery and library also look lovely and peaceful-a flowery break in the midst of war. The battles are quite fine in Sword as well. The turns the action takes are unexpected, even though Sharpe really shouldn’t be charging a fort after the wounds he sustains. It’s a little unbelievable, but if you’re still watching this far in the series, you don’t mind routing for the miraculously healed Sharpe.

Of course, there are still no subtitles or digital perfection, but Sharpe’s Sword has well done action, acting, loyalty, and betrayal. Not bad for Sharpe Beds Mute Girl.

ETA: Please see the comments below for further opinion on the Sharpe's Sword novel.

1 comment:

Kristin Battestella said...

Sharpe’s Sword Novel Superior to Film
By Kristin Battestella

As much as I praised the television version of Sharpe’s Sword, the 1983 novel from Bernard Cornwell hails an honest, superior story full of espionage and adultery.

The television producers backed themselves into a corner when they filmed Sharpe’s Honour before Sword. The written Sword comes before the written Honour, so the premature introduction of La Marquesa necessitated the role of the mute Lass. It’s a charming role onscreen, but naturally one with little weight beyond bedding Sharpe. In the Sword novel, however, we are treated to the true and intriguing build up of La Marquesa. Her affair with Sharpe amid the cat and mouse games of Salamanca is full of twists and turns that are both weighed heavily and yet dismissed by the married Sharpe.

Sharpe’s recuperation in the Sword novel is also longer than the understandably contrived film. More dedication is given to Harper’s care of Sharpe, and Patrick’s woman in the novels-named Isabella not Ramona as in the TV series-gives as much love and care to Richard. It’s a fascinating read to see Sharpe so tricked, deceived, and yes played by superior officers, the French, and La Marquesa. The Sword movie may have its ups and downs, but Sharpe always comes out on top. In the novel, the heroic end is not a foregone conclusion.

Sharpe’s Sword is a decent film full of adoration, fun, and action, but the novel gives much more depth to Salamanca, La Marquesa, and Richard Sharpe.

I’ve noticed Cornwell’s novels and their Hornblower precursors are often placed in a ‘Men’s novels’ or ‘action and adventure’ section of stores and libraries. Fans of military fiction no doubt would love Sharpe’s Sword- Cornwell’s attention to detail and research for the Salamanca campaign is extensive. Of course, many ladies tune into the series for Sean Bean or have no interest in the written books. That’s fine, but even if you read only the Sharpe novels that have been turned into films, the maturity and experience is so abundantly superior. I love the show, I really do. In fact, I appreciate it more now that I’ve read the excellent source material. Pick up Sharpe’s Sword at your bookstore today.