Ioan Gruffudd, Robert Lindsay, Jamie Bamber. The adventures of C.S. Forester's seafaring hero fighting for the British flag against the armies of Napoleon come to life in two all-new, full-length features, Loyalty and Duty . 2 DVDs. 2003/color/3 hrs., 20 min/NR/widescreen.
Dashing Ioan Gruffud stars as dashing Horatio Hornblower, unparalleled British naval hero, in two more delightful episodes from the A&E series. In Loyalty
, a peace with France has left Hornblower decommissioned and short on funds. Only the help of his landlady's daughter Maria (heartbreaking Julie Sawalha, Absolutely Fabulous
) keeps him from being kicked out into the street. Fortunately for our hero, Napoleon's armies are afoot, and Hornblower soon finds himself sailing to France in command of the Hotspur, grappling with Irish traitors and French skullduggery. Duty
picks up where Loyalty
leaves off; Hornblower marries Maria with some ambivalence, but the day after his wedding sails for the coast of France to find a missing ship. After rescuing a supposedly Swiss man and his American wife in a storm, Hornblower finds himself caught between an old foe in France and diplomats in England. Though the derring-do is sometimes melodramatic, Horatio Hornblower
swiftly becomes engrossing and suspenseful. Credit is due to smart scripts, efficient direction, Gruffud's heroically curly hair, and a superb supporting cast, including Robert Lindsay and Paul McGann (Withnail and I
). --Bret Fetzer