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Dr. Ingrid Augustin (Vienna Austria)
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Chris Ryan's Strike Back [DVD]
Chris Ryan's Strike Back [DVD]
Dvd ~ Richard Armitage
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £4.52

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully filmed action drama, 21 Jun. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
*THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS*

I love action movies, books and series, I have an avid interest in British Special Forces and I think Richard Armitage is one of the best actors I have ever seen, so the moment I heard he would be in Strike Back" I also knew it would be good. I wasn't disappointed, on the contrary, as especially the second and third episodes are great entertainment.

The first episode roughly follows Chris Ryan's books and shows John Porter's downfall and his redemption by saving the kidnapped journalist. The beginning may be a little slow going, but the characters are complex and have to be established, but the second half contains lovely, tender scenes between Porter and Katie, and much action so that time flies. The next two episodes are original stories set in two of the hell holes of this world, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan.

Richard Armitage is truly a dedicated actor, undergoing hard physical training to turn his fine-boned long-distance runner's body into that of a decathlete. He shows that being a professional soldier needs not necessarily lead to being a killing machine without conscience. That's his weakness, but it is an endearing one. It is also a little hard to believe that he has no academic qualifications, because he has a natural intelligence and ability to impovise that makes him a combination of Sharpe, Indiana Jones and Danger Man.

There are many intense, yet subtly acted moments - for instance as Porter waits to be executed by a bullet in the back of his head, first struggles and then resigns to his fate, his daughter's name upon his lips. Ironically, the cruel goings-on in the jail are most beautifully filmed, bathed in pale yellow light, the night scenes in soft dark blue. Other highlights are the bantering with shrewd Masuku, who clearly knows how to appeal to Porter's compassion, and the tragicomic scenes with the marvellous Ewen Bremner as half-crazed rumpelstiltskin computer genius.

Andrew Lincoln's Major Collinson is the truly tragic character. Porter doesn't change much - he is and has always been loyal and brave, but Collinson makes one mistake that destroys his life, forcing him to live an Ibsenesque lie. Alexander Siddiq is chilling as an Afghan warlord head and shoulders about the average Taliban leaders, Toby Stephens, another of my favourites, equally so as scheming CIA operative. Sadly, the Americans always have to be the bad guys...Jodhi May as Layla is the cleverest of them all, a joy to watch for the thinking woman! First being highly sceptical about Porter's qualifications, she becomes his closest ally; sadly, the second female character is not that well-written, but at least Shelley Conn and Richard Armitage are a beautiful couple. And let's not forget the children - poor As'ad, groomed to be a suicide bomber obviously by members of his own family, or the African AIDS orphans - innocent victims of the madness thht rules war zones.

All in all, Strike Back" is highly recommendable - Richard Armitage's best role since North and South"!


The Sunne in Splendour
The Sunne in Splendour
by Sharon Penman
Edition: Paperback

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Plantagenet Tragedy, 23 Feb. 2008
This review is from: The Sunne in Splendour (Paperback)
Autumn 1459. A seven year-old boy gets lost in the forest. His easy-going eldest brother has had better things to do than watch over him, that is to say seducing a pretty servant girl. After a prolonged search the lad is found, having bravely fought his fear, and despite being afraid of punishment he doesn't even think of informing against his sibling. A fiercely loyal and earnest boy, he is the youngest of his family, small, dark and intense and very different from his three tall and fair brothers. He is Richard Plantagenet, who, as King Richard III, will go down in history as the epitome of evil.

The reader wonders what happened to turn this earnest child into a murderous usurper. Murderer he wasn't, claims Sharon Penman. Believable and compelling, the story of the four sons of Richard, Duke of York unfolds with all the relentlessness and inescapability of a Greek tragedy.

"The Sunne in Splendour" is a magnificent book. Intimate family scenes alternate with bloody battles, scenarios of betrayal and murder are followed by tender love scenes. A host of unforgettable characters populates it. There is the lovable Edmund, the first of the four Plantagenet princes to die; proud foolish Warwick and his tragic brother John Neville; the icily beautiful Elizabeth Woodville, Edward's queen; Bishop Morton, the snake in the grass; sweet-natured Elizabeth of York and Richard's dignified mother Cecily. All of them are complex, and stay with the reader for a long time.

Ms. Penman does not make the mistake to present Richard. Although far from being the monster More and Shakespeare described, her Richard is shown partly responsible for his nephews' fate. In her version he does not order their killing, of course, but he does not realise that by his taking the throne the children become pawns in other people's power games and pay for his thoughtlessness with their lives. Ms. Penman's explanation of the princes' disappearance and Richard's strange silence is as good and plausible as others. Her Richard is brave and loyal, but he can also be aloof and stubborn to the point of inflexibility. He can display subtle irony, but also biting wit, and is capable of considerable aggression, yet lacks the ultimate ruthlessness to secure his power. Reflecting upon his decision makes him admit his guilt - that he yielded to the temptation the Crown of England represented - and for the last months of his life he fells bitter remorse. Ms. Penman describes his depressed state of mind with such chilling accuracy, that his mother's fear for his immortal soul is almost tangible and very painful, and the ending leaves the reader bereaved as though he had lost a loved one.

The drama that was Richard's life and the way it is elucidated here makes one wonder why it hasn't been filmed yet. There is a cinematographic quality to many of Ms. Penman's scenarios; look for instance at the council meeting leading to Lord Hasting's execution, or at solitary young Richard riding in blazing sunshine towards Warwick's army camp to win Clarence back - these just beg to be filmed! Certainly, the ending is tragic and would leave the audience aching, but a skilled screenwriter may find a solution. A similar problem has been handled very well in "Braveheart".

Wherein now lies Richard's attraction? The Tudors, commonly associated with the beginning of the Modern Age, superficially appear more interesting as opposed to the Plantagenets who seem to symbolise the superstitions-ridden, unenlightened Middle Ages. Richard was born on the brink of the Modern Age and grew up in a world that witnessed the death throes of the medieval system of values, and yet, at a time when all conventional notions of loyalty and feudal allegiance had become a sham, there survived in him a core of chivalrous conduct that is very appealing, apparent for example in his just administration of the North and his legislation as King - supporting the weak as demanded by the knightly code of conduct. He seems a man born too late, and trying to adhere to such a strict code of behaviour needs must clash with the attitudes of more opportunistic characters who felt more at ease in this era of change.

Richard's physical courage, praised even by his detractors, originates in his chivalrous ideals, and his last ferocious charge down Ambion Hill to challenge Henry Tudor to single combat evokes heroic tales of earlier centuries, and indeed his decision to die a King rather than to flee was mentioned in a contemporary ballad.

Close to the end Richard's niece and nephews mourn their uncle's death and discuss their future, still hoping for fair treatment; future judicial murders and the destruction of Richard's reputation are only mentioned in the epilogue. However, learning about their fate is chilling. On the road to glorious Elizabeth I the Plantagenet blood seeped away as Henry VII and Henry VIII got rid of all potential heirs of the old dynasty.

To a modern observer this policy of merciless extermination appears depressingly modern. For all the beauty, progress and enlightenment the Renaissance brought, the Modern Age was setting out on a road that would lead to the atrocities of the 20th century. Gradually, dynastic wars were replaced by ideological ones, with ever more terror wrought on the common, civilian people who were included in the ideological and/or religious struggles. Already the atrocities of the Thirty Years' War and Cromwell's campaigns in Ireland, not unlike today's ethnical cleansing, loom in the future, premonitory of the final triumphs of secular humanism in the 20th century.

Richard Plantagenet died at thirty-two, his promising reign cut short by rebellion and treason. Ms. Penman brings him gloriously back to life for us, to be seen in a benevolent light at last. It is painful for the reader to lose him again, but the great achievement of this book is to show that there was nobility in Richard's cause as well as in his failure.
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