‘Hanover Street’ (1979)

‘Hanover Street’ (1979) This film has very little going for it, other than the participation of Plummer and Ford. I honestly wanted to like it, given my respect for Hyams and many of the actors, but this just fell flat, in so many ways.

First, Lesley-Ann Down : has she ever managed to be the romantic lead in a WWII picture that didn’t end up being a piece of made-for-TV garbage? I say this after having tried to watch her in ‘ Arch of Triumph ‘ (1985) with Anthony Hopkins, a remake of a project with ‘Casablanca’-level ambitions that simply fell flat; this remake hardly improved upon the 1948 version. In ‘Hanover Street’ Ms. Downs’ performance certainly wasn’t enhanced by the flat dialogue and her wholly unsympathetic character: The woman is cheating on her husband, plain and simple, without explanation or cause. A stronger actress would have demanded a better backstory for this character, some ‘Sophie’s Choice’ or ‘Plenty’ content to make her more fathomable, but this round-heeled wife of a British Intelligence officer (Plummer) is nothing but a liability. If she was able to be ‘picked-up’ by Ford as easily as she does in this film, her character would have been victimized by a German Agent, long before she encountered Ford. This film tries hard to be a romantic something-or-other, but this woman’s got a kid and no obvious conflicts of interest with husband Plummer. That’s one raspberry, right there.

As for the schizophrenic element, about 2/3rds the way through, Hyams tries to turn this thing into a War film – Ford and Plummer go behind enemy lines together into Vichy France , but the plotting is sloppy as they are thrown together by chance. Hyams spent some small amount of time setting Plummer up as some sort of spy-chief, training other British Officers to to operate behind enemy lines and Ford is to be the Allied pilot that flies them to their destination. Fortunately, unfortunately in these scenes, Ford and Plummer share the strongest moments in the entire film, and the two male leads have more chemistry with one another than either has with Ms. Down(er).

After doing all this spy-stuff exposition, Hyams promptly kills off all of the German-speaking British Agents and saddles Plummer with an untrained, monolingual Ford to complete a highly specialized intelligence heist in Central France. Plummer parachutes in with a German uniform, Ford with his Hogan’s Heroes flight jacket… as if he wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb, once he hit the ground.

It’s truly no surprise that this film laid an egg at the box office – it is entirely uneven in terms of both script and story. If you want to see Ford in a better war-movie, see ‘Force 10 from Navarone’ – better yet, go straight to the top, and see his cameo appearance in ‘Apocalypse Now’.

As for this film, I can’t even begin to imagine the market influences that allowed this script to be greenlit. The Americans were making gritty urban dramas – ‘Coming Home’ (1978), ‘Midnight Express’ (1978), ‘The Deer Hunter’ (1978) and the next year saw the release of ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979),’Being There’ (1979) and ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ (1979). I suppose this film had the potential of filling that warm-spot that the British have for soap-operas and patriotic war-stories.

While ‘Hanover Street’ may have had some promise as a script, it really just falls flat in it’s execution. Ford in a pilot’s uniform is simply not enough to save this turkey of a film.

Rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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