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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2007
This is immensely enjoyable. It is a brilliant 3-hour adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's "Sword of Honour" trilogy. Given the time constraint, much material has been excised. Most of the religious content has been stripped out. The various supporting characters and events have been drastically reduced or eliminated entirely. But the essence of Waugh's work is here, his wickedly cruel humour, his biting satire, his bitterness and his elegizing of the loss of all that he considered good in British society. For me Sword of Honour is the work that best pairs the dark satirical humour of his earlier novels with the elegiac, spiritual quality of his later phase, so beautifully exemplified in "Brideshead Revisited". I wish this could have been as meticulously and faithfully mounted as the incomparable Brideshead but if you bear in mind that Brideshead ran for close to 11 hours, a similar enterprise on the same scale here, would stretch anywhere from 25 to 30 hours in length.

To its credit, despite the massive slashing, it does still remain true to the spirit of the book. The ending is changed but I'm not sure what a previous reviewer meant when he said that it was a "happy" ending. In the book, the story ends with Guy marrying Lady Plessington's daughter, Domenica, the good Catholic girl who cared for his dead wife's son in his absence. In the film, the Plessingtons are entirely eliminated. The film ends with the brief scene of Guy alone with his sister back in their ancestral estate. He tells her of how his Italian villa has been taken over by the murderous Ludovic and how he has come back to Broome to shepherd what is left of the once great Crouchback lands. From the book we know that most of it is actually gone. There is nothing particularly "happy" about this. In fact if you were to pause and reflect, you would realise that it was an intensely sad ending - not only has Guy lost most of his physical possessions, he has also seen the moral values he grew with cynically trampled underfoot; and in accepting Virginia's child as his own, he has given away all that remains of the Crouchback legacy to the son of a commoner and a bounder. For me that final shot where he embraces his dead wife's love-child as his own, shows more than anything, the immense goodness in his soul; that far from being diminished by all the liars, cheats, and traitors he has encountered and all the unfairness that life has thrown at him, he has kept intact his honour and the essential goodness which defines him as a man.

The story takes in all the places where Waugh himself saw action. So the film sweeps us along from England to Scotland, from Senegal to Egypt, from Crete to Croatia (Yugoslavia), and finally from Italy, back home to England. Some commentators have rightfully called it an anti-epic because despite the many hairy situations and exotic locations in which he finds himself, Guy never actually gets to fight in a major battle. The battles we see on screen, as in the book, are almost all farcical and point to the utter stupidity and futility of war. Guy finally realises the truth of this in his conversation with the Jewish woman Mme Kanyi who consoles him with the line, "Even good men thought that by going to war, they could win a kind of honour," to which he acknowledges tearfully, "God forgive me. I was one of them."

In this adaptation, the Sword of Honour is purely a metaphor. The actual physical Sword of Honour is never mentioned in the film. In the book, there is a physical Sword of Honour, embodied in the Sword of Stalingrad given by King George VI to Stalin in 1943 to seal the newly forged Anglo-Russian alliance. Crouchback like Waugh was aghast at this alliance with the Godless Communists and the apparent betrayal of all that he thought he had been fighting for - the defense of Christian civilisation. To him, the British alliance with Communist Russia and the betrayal of Catholic Poland and Croatia to Communism was simply trading one evil for another and this was the bitter irony that the physical Sword of Honour represented.

Daniel Craig (the latest James Bond), makes a fine Guy Crouchback. It's to his credit as an actor that he looks not the least bit like the suave secret agent he would later become. Here he is a naive, idealistic, earnest, slightly befuddled English gentleman; just a simple good man trying to do the right thing. Megan Dodds (Love in a Cold Climate) is absolutely gorgeous as Guy's fickle and materialistic wife Virginia. Richard Coyle (the clownish Jeff in Coupling) is engagingly funny as Trimmer/McTavish, the ex-hairdresser who becomes the unlikeliest hero and one of the many conquests of the faithless Virginia.

It's not perfect by any means. It will certainly infuriate many Waugh fans. But this highly abridged adaptation is very well done and a pleasure to watch. It doesn't deserve anything less than a 4-star rating. The DVD is in the original 1.78:1 AR (enhanced for widescreen TV). Picture quality is excellent. Audio is in the original 2.0 Dolby Surround but is rather boomy, with the dialogue less than crystal clear. Unfortunately, Acorn, as always, does not provide any subtitles. There are no extras whatsoever.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 20, 2009
"Sword of Honour,"is a British television serial, a World War II costume historical drama that was a 2001 TalkBack production for Britain's adventurous BBC Channel 4. The DVD box set runs approximately 193 minutes, and includes an Evelyn Waugh biography. Also unadvertised subtitles; bless you, Acorn Media, as the series is a potpourri of the flavorful accents of its time and places. You just have to ask your TV set for subtitles, and they will pop up magically.

The series stars Daniel Craig, before he became the sixth actor to portray that dashing undercover agent, Bond, James Bond. It's based on the wartime trilogy of novels that goes by the same name, (which consists of Men at Arms  (1952);Officers and Gentlemen  (1955); and Unconditional Surrender: The Conclusion of Men at Arms and Officers and Gentlemen  (1961)); by the noted British satirical/comic author Evelyn Waugh. A cursory reading of any biographical material on the well-known, best-selling Waugh (Brideshead Revisited), serves to illustrate that it closely follows the author's own World War II experiences.

Craig (Quantum of Solace,Defiance), plays 35-year old, wealthy Englishman Guy Crouchback, who comes back from Italy to England at the beginning of the war, determined to get in on it, though he is too old for most wartime purposes. As a good Catholic, one among the heavily-populated gallery of such that Waugh created, Crouchback seeks moral redemption in a "good war" after a nasty divorce that echoes Waugh's own first. But Crouchback won't find his good war: from first to last, his war is populated by alcoholics, cheats, cowards and crazy men, again, apparently, closely mirroring Waugh's actual wartime experience. Megan Dodds (Love in a Cold Climate) plays Crouchback's tempting ex-wife Virginia, who comes back into his life, first taunting him for his religious rigidity, then relying upon it. A highly distinguished cast of supporting actors is headed by Richard Coyle (Coupling - The Complete Seasons 1-4); and Leslie Phillips (Love on a Branch Line.) The acting is uniformly excellent, and Craig is outstanding. The story moves reasonably fast, and is full of incidents, and interesting characters.

The producers have certainly filmed Waugh's downbeat story with an open hand. In addition to its notable cast, there's lots of location shooting, in the various uncomfortable places that war can take you. Lots of what certainly appear to me to be accurate for the period vehicles, clothes, interiors, and war toys, big and small. There are shocking juxtapositions: Waugh was noted for that. A trussed-up wounded general, being fork lifted aboard ship, tells Crouchback that his wounded, hospitalized friend Apthorpe has killed himself by sucking down, overnight, the bottle of whisky Crouchback had brought him with the best of intentions. The war is not a good war for many of the people it touches, including, later, some of the displaced Jewish refugees adrift in Communist Croatia. (This particular incident not only echoes the timetable of Waugh's War; it forms the basis of one of his best short stories, "Compassion," in his The Complete Short Stories . We've got to assume there's lived experience behind it.)

Seems many reviewers are not happy with the unhappy tenor of the story, but that's Waugh's outlook. He once said, "Fortune is the least capricious of deities, and arranges things on the just and rigid system that no one shall be very happy for very long." Nevertheless, as that famous Italian scientist Galileo once said, "eppur si muove." And yet it moves. "Sword" moves in two senses: the story does offer lots of action and incident; and either Waugh or the scriptwriters have managed to come up with a reasonably hopeful ending to it. Despite the cruelty of war to Crouchback, his friends, lovers and acquaintances, there still is a future.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Evelyn Waugh, writer of "Brideshead Revisited" and other books, never failed to weave the bitter in with the honey. Life can become the unexpected but never the uneventful in his tales. This film is about as true to a book as a movie can get. Any book adaptation has to leave something out even though they did spend over 3 hours (193 min) telling the story in this film version. Excellent British war drama, a period work that also covers many countries.

Guy Crouchback (Daniel Craig [James Bond], an actor who can draw empathy) soon after joining the military, meets his ex-wife, Virginia (Megan Dodds) a blond bombshell who is now divorced for the 3rd time. Crouchback is yet devastated over his divorce, obviously not his idea being Catholic (like E. Waugh) where divorce unacceptable within that faith. Guy had never remarried. Catholic religion had a huge part of Waugh's books, and of course those books converted to film.

Guy's outfit, Royal Corps of Halberdiers, goes into action in W. Africa where a maneuver goes bad. Guy's military duty becomes as disastrous as his marriage. Military misadventure, often comedic incompetence, continues in an array of world locations including a new Commando assignment and action in Crete. Officers seem a shameful waste, and committed only to themselves. All of the characters met during the time of military duty play a large part in the success of this story, book or film.

Couchback struggles to find goodness and fairness and moralities in life or in people. He'd also like to do something to make his own life appear worthwhile. A military position in Croatia could be the answer. Will war find Guy a kind of honor? A Sword of Honour he can live with?

Extras to this DVD 2-disc set includes an Evelyn Waugh biography, filmographies, and closed captioning for the hearing impaired. I appreciated the captioning even though I'm not hearing impaired.

Also recommended is "Evelyn Waugh Collection" DVD set of 2 stories. And of course Brideshead Revisited, but I'd advise buying the longer 25th anniversary version. See my reviews.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A wonderful ensemble cast shines in this film headed by Daniel Craig. Wow! Is there nothing this actor can not do? Consistently brilliant in every thing he does on screen I am convinced now that he is by far the best actor of his generation. A great story wonderfully filmed. A must see for all ages. The ending is so moving and powerful it will stay with you for days.
Some fans of the film may have bones to pick with this production but for those like me who have not read it the film plays beautifuly.
The locations are stunning and the film has immense sweep and drama. Comedy also plays a major role in this film so in the end it is bitter sweet and oh so satisfying. Epic in scope and yet intimate and touching a wonderful film that kept me glued to the tube.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2011
So how does a trilogy of novels present in a three hour film? Not at all well would be my response. I am still confused by the film. I have read the novels several times, and in this context could follow the film. At so many points in the film I felt that someone who did not know the novels would have to be lost.

On the positive side, the era did seem to be well represented, the acting seemed well done, but I cannot help but think the film would be hard to follow or understand without knowledge of the novels.

It is not possible to compare this film to the novels it attempts to represent. If one were to outline the novels and then film the outline, this film would be the result. In fairness, it seems impossible that three thoughtful novels, filled with satire and dark comedy can be well represented in such a short running of film.

To get anything at all from this film, I would recommend reading the novels first.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
While those who read the actual books upon which this series is based are perhaps disappointed, I found this to be a fascinating production. Daniel Craig is superb and plays the main character in a brilliant, restrained manner. For a change this is a realistic look at warfare with no over the top heroics. Everything portrayed here from a military history perspective is believeable and accurate. The randomness of war, combined with its absurdity gets well done here.

The various postings of Guy shows how one could have moved around quite a bit before seeing any actual combat. When that action does finally come its disjointed, confused and realistic. While the Halbadiers are a fantasy regiment invented by Waugh for his stories, his look at regimental life at the time is interesting. Again, absurd situations and characters abound!

This is a very British production and look at the war, and is a portrait of a truly good soul who manages to to get about in a chaotic world of events. For a true look at WW2 from the perspective of Old Albion I recommend this fascinating two part series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2013
I haven't seen the movie (TV series) but have read all of the reviews and comments here. There seems to be disagreement about the ending of the movie as opposed to the ending of the book. I have a first edition of The End of the Battle, the final book in the trilogy. Unless Waugh changed the ending in his "recension", Sword of Honour, then the trilogy ends with a 1951 epilogue set in London in which we learn that Guy Crouchback has actually had a fairly satisfactory conclusion to his story. Possibly even a "happy" one. He is now married to a Catholic girl of ancient lineage. He is the father of three children, two of whom are actually his. He is running a much smaller version of the vast old land holdings, but in a profitable way. The final lines of the book are:

"So Guy's happily settled?"

"Yes," said Box-Bender, not without a small, clear note of resentment, "things have turned out very conveniently for Guy."
_____

I hope that this settles the question.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2013
I have not read the book, but thought this was a very good movie. The acting was great. It's always interesting to learn a little bit more about WW II, and the many places around the world the fighting was taking place. Plus, as it's an adaptation of a British book, you get the British point of view, as opposed to the American. Daniel Craig was excellent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2013
Wasn't expecting much from this show, but with Daniel Criag as main character it was worth a shot. Was fantastic
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on May 30, 2011
Probably the best part of this movie was watching Virginia. It was a good story, well acted, had a nice mix of comedy (The Brigadier !), romance and sex (Virginia, again), and a cast of interesting characters who all could have had their own series and were stories within stories. It was entertaining and worthy of watching. I was glad that I had an opportunity to purchase and view the film.
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