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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well acted and imaginatively adapted..
Anyone who tries to adapt any novel for film or television is going to have to make some sacrifices and changes in order to make their version worth watching. In this sense William Boyd does an excellent job cutting down peripheral characters and storylines. What we are left with is a story about heroism, very different heroes, against a backdrop of the imcompetence on a...
Published on 19 May 2004

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad
Any attempt to condense the Sword of Honour trilogy into one lengthy film (although I think it was shown originally as a two-parter?) was bound to be flawed.
And it is. The books themselves start off more comic in tone (Men at Arms) and become more tragic and cynical during Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender. This probably reflects Waughs own state...
Published on 19 Mar 2008 by Mr. J. P. Shields


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, 19 Mar 2008
This review is from: Sword Of Honour [DVD] [2001] (DVD)
Any attempt to condense the Sword of Honour trilogy into one lengthy film (although I think it was shown originally as a two-parter?) was bound to be flawed.
And it is. The books themselves start off more comic in tone (Men at Arms) and become more tragic and cynical during Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender. This probably reflects Waughs own state of mind which became increasingly bitter as his health deteriorated (see Selina Hastings' excellent biography)
However the film never quite knows where it is and tries to be funny and tragic at the same time (not easy) and fails in general.
It must be said that Daniel Craig does a good job, but Trimmer and Ritchie-Hook in particular are miscast. The portrayal of Apthorpe was also a big minus and not at all like Men at Arms.
The Crete section is well handled and stops me giving only two stars.
However this would have been better adapted as a six part series like Brideshead, and it often seems rushed an sketchy as a result, with key characters popping up and then disappearing 35 minutes later.

My advice to anyone who has watched this and not read the books would be (predicatably) to read the books!
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well acted and imaginatively adapted.., 19 May 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Sword Of Honour [DVD] [2001] (DVD)
Anyone who tries to adapt any novel for film or television is going to have to make some sacrifices and changes in order to make their version worth watching. In this sense William Boyd does an excellent job cutting down peripheral characters and storylines. What we are left with is a story about heroism, very different heroes, against a backdrop of the imcompetence on a grand scale of the British army of 1939-1945. Perhaps most vividly some excellent dramatisations of the evacuation of Crete, an often forgotten episode of the war.
Crouchback, the main character, begins the story idealistic at the prospect of conflict, though not in a jingoistic sense, rather Crouchback hopes the war will provide a chance to prove himself on a personal level. He is inspired by Ivor Clare, a dashing guardsman who is awarded the Military Cross at Dunkirk, although he is not all he seems. Trimmer, an oppourtunistic idler, is certainly not a hero, though is seized upon by the propaganda machine as an honest British peoples hero, and his image is cultivated in the press. Finally Ricthie Hook, is certainly brave enough to be a hero but comes accross as ultimately a tragic figure, only good for the business of soldiering.
The character of Apthorpe is very different to the Apthorpe in the book, yet is exceptionally played and provides much of the stories black humour. Naval experts may notice the Royal Navy type 22 frigate, probably launched late 1970's early 1980's used in one scene, but this is only minor - one for the ship spotters! I disagree with the other reviewer, i feel the atmosphere of wartime London was evoked quite well, and anyway only a few scenes are set in England, so I don't consider this especially important.
All in all worth a look
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And Yet It Moves, 22 Feb 2012
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Sword Of Honour [DVD] (DVD)
"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.

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, The Sword of Honour Trilogy: Men at Arms, ; 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: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder), serves to illustrate that it closely follows the author's own World War II experiences.

Craig (Quantum of Solace,Defiance [DVD]), 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: Complete Series 1 [DVD]); and Leslie Phillips (Love On A Branch Line [DVD].) 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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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Waugh on War, 1 Jan 2010
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This review is from: Sword Of Honour [DVD] (DVD)
A terrific piece of television drama. Very old school in that insight and compassion naturally reveal themselves through superbly crafted characterisations and dialogue. The budget may have been a bit tight, the producers have at times clearly had to skimp particularly on the war-time effects but this is not a grand spectacle Hollywood style blockbuster so it matters little. The unfolding human dramas are played out with subtly and authority. There is a real sense of individuals caught up in the sweep of history, making difficult choices and often finding themselves the victim of absurdity or pernicious circumstance and it is very moving. Yet this is not a grim work, there is somethng uplifting here - a sense of wonderment at life in all its rich complexity. There is no two dimensionality but a rounded sense of what the experience of life actually is, difficult but deeply precious.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a catholic at war, 16 May 2011
By 
P. C. Reynell (Bradford UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sword Of Honour [DVD] (DVD)
Evelyn Waugh's trilogy cannot be condensed to this degree without losing much of the flavour of the books. Nevertheless this is a credible attempt. The scottish training camp and the crete campaign are particularly well handled, but one has to make allowance for the authors religious prejudice and his hatred of Tito's communist partisans
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fairly poor adaptation, 13 April 2014
This review is from: Sword Of Honour [DVD] (DVD)
I agree with other reviewers who were not impressed by this adaptation of Waugh's trilogy. It was interesting to see Mrs Troy made flesh, so to speak, but Daniel Graig was a miscast. More serious damage was done to the character Apthorpe; and the actor who played him was likewise miscast and made a poor fist at playing Apthorpe. Perhaps it was a tall order for the film makers to try to capture Waugh's trilogy in a relatively short adaptation. The actor who played Ritchie-Hook cannot have read Waugh's trilogy; or if he did, he just couldn't rise to the job. Trimmer, the pseudo-Scotsman, doesn't come near the character in the triology. I have watched the VHS version of Sword of Honour twice over a period of about 10 years, and my low opinion of the work didn't change on the second viewing. If you haven't read Waugh's trilogy then you may find the film adaptation rather more than o.k. If you have read the books, then don't waste your money on the dvd. BBC radio broadcast a 6-part adaptation of the trilogy. If you can get a copy of this audio, you'll find it's worth the money.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Misfortunes of War, 19 Oct 2013
By 
M. J. Nelson (Leeds) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sword Of Honour [DVD] (DVD)
Evelyn Waugh's masterly - and partly autobiographical - Second World War trilogy has the supreme merit of offering an often blackly satirical view of military life both on, and behind, the front lines with an ultimately moving portrait of a decent man (and, like Waugh himself, a Catholic) who desperately wants to acquit himself honourably in the war but who is constantly thwarted by events outside of his control. William Boyd's three-hour plus adaptation inevitably compresses what is very much a sprawling narrative and alters the emphasis of some of the characters (e.g. the rather sinister Corporal-Major Ludovic) but it does more than a decent job. The Crete and Croatia scenes (particularly the former) come off best, whereas there is less interest in the scenes on the home front, which in any case offer a rather partial and upper-class view of the reality - no 'millions like us' in Waugh's narrative. Daniel Craig is excellent as the central character, Guy Crouchback, in what in some ways is a rather passive role but a quartet of supporting actors do well with the author's distinctly oddball characters : not just Ludovic, but the slippery and opportunistic Trimmer, the crazy Brigadier Ritchie-Hook and the pompous and ineffectual Major Hound (who in Boyd's script is murdered by Ludovic in cold blood). The production values are very high. My copy of the single DVD has no documentation whatsoever, a far too common drawback with such material.
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33 of 41 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars WARNING! do not purchase this item!, 15 April 2005
This review is from: Sword Of Honour [DVD] [2001] (DVD)
The Sword of Honour trilogy is a masterpiece and regarded by many well-educated pundits as the best and most important novels to come out of the Second World War. I love the books and read them every couple of years.
This mini-series, however, is appalingly bland. Whoever adapted it does not appear to have grasped the concept of irony, and has thus come to regard this hilarious, bitter, cynical magnum opus as a sort of Catherine Cookson with long words and the odd funny character thrown in.
If you are not familiar with Evelyn Waugh then the likelihood is that you will be put off becoming familiar with him. If you have read the books in advance, then you will be infuriated by the way the characters and story have been changed for no apparent reason. If you want an Evelyn Waugh film there are some very good ones to be had. the TV series of Brideshead Revisited is wonderful. There is also an excellent film from the 80s of A Handful of Dust with Kristin Scott Thomas and Rupert Graves.
The only thing that interests me about this film is my attempts to decide which i hate with more passion - this or Bright Young Things.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More sympathetic than the book, 31 Dec 2009
This review is from: Sword Of Honour [DVD] (DVD)
Sword of Honour is a great book, worth reading in its own right, and the TV series follows it quite faithfully. However, Guy Crouchback (Daniel Craig) is more the hero in the TV dramatisation than in the novel - and that helps to lift the tone. That's not at all what Waugh intended, but it makes for more enjoyable viewing. There's even some comedy: Richard Coyle as Trimmer is a suitable figure of fun, while Julian Rhind Tutt gets some great banter as the permanently tipsy Lord Ian Kilbannock. With Robert Pugh as the biff-happy Brigadier Ritchie-Hook, and Guy Henry playing the detached Corporal Ludovic: 'The philosophers state that man is what he hates ... but somehow I do not think Captain Crouchback could ever be Major Hound.'

To its credit various pointless figures in the book have been cut from the TV series (e.g. Colonel Marchpole-double-barrelled-whatnot), while others have been condensed - e.g. Frank Da Souza and the odious Gilpin. But even where cuts have been made there are little nods to the excised passages from the book: e.g. the sign that warns against proceeding when the red flag is flying on the firing range, or where Guy damages his knee preventing a mugging during the blackout (as opposed to playing rugger in the mess), or where the Halberdiers are sent back and forth from one ship to another on the dockside before boarding.

The locations on show all stand up (Crete, Jugoslavia, Cairo) as does the CGI footage - at least I assume those aren't real Stukas in Crete.

Of course, Guy's war is one mainly of disappointment - mainly owing to blunders by the military high-ups - and the series follows that too: no luck with Virginia, off to Africa but sent back in disgrace after a little excitement in Dakar. Crete is a military debacle (is there anything in the military that isn't: you can just imagine that consignment of all left foot boots from the Crimea turning up in Afganistan today, can't you?), sent back to England for two years of training faceless recruits, breaks his leg during parachute training, even his time in Jugoslavia seems to little point at first. But those inclined to heroics are even more heroic here than in the book. It's Ritchie-Hook who rescues Ian Kilbannock from the crash-landed plane in Jugoslavia, and Ritchie-Hook who manages to knock out the (German) blockhouse in one final, fatal, bout of biffing. Guy himself is more forceful too in trying to resolve the issue of 'De Jews' and obtain their repatriation to Italy (thereby saving more than one 'soul').

The scene where Guy meets his adopted son for the first time and tells him 'Hello, I'm your father' is quite affecting (even though you know its all stage managed).

While the TV series no doubt misses out on the sense of futility, of the world passing Guy's decaying Catholic upper class heritage by, it's all the better without Waugh's bitterness.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent story !, 1 Sep 2014
By 
Bruce Miller "hyper2u" (Louisville, Kentucky and San Diego, California) - See all my reviews
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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Sword Of Honour [DVD]
Sword Of Honour [DVD] by Bill Anderson Jnr (DVD - 2008)
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