Today: May 28, 2024

Who Dares Wins

When an undercover police agent provocateur/informer is assassinated during an anti-nuclear peace march (with a crossbow!),

When an undercover police
agent provocateur/informer is assassinated during an anti-nuclear peace march
(with a crossbow!), disgraced former SAS captain Peter Skellen (Lewis Collins)
is tasked with infiltrating protest group the People’s Lobby which may just be
a front for a foreign-funded terrorist group.

Waltzing
into the middle of an agitprop performance dance piece being performed in a
pub, Skellen brusquely romances People’s Lobby leader sexy American bourgeoise
heiress Frankie Leith (Judy Davis)
and then it’s back to hers for a spot of rumpy-pumpy. Pretty soon
she’s sharing secrets as well as her bed. Infiltrating the group,
Skellen soon discovers that the hardcore leftie activists at its heart are
planning a major terrorist attack to highlight their anti-nuclear peace
agenda.

Before
he can warn his contact they put their plan into action taking over the
American ambassador’s residence and holding hostage a group of British and
American bigwigs, among them the US Secretary of State (Richard Widmark). Their demands are simple (and pretty
f*cking insane for an anti-nuclear activist group); they want the world to see
the dangers of nuclear war by demanding the British government launch a nuclear
missile at the Holy Loch nuclear submarine base in Scotland. If not,
they’ll start executing the hostages. With time running out for the
hostages, it’s up to Skellen to take out the terrorists…

Inspired
by the SAS storming of the Iranian Embassy in 1980, an event if you’re old
enough you may remember being televised live to the nation, Who Dares Wins is
rabidly right-wing nonsense that’s more fun than it has a right to be. The
direction by TV director Ian Sharp
is nothing special but the script has a propulsive brutality that never slows
up long enough to let you dwell on how daft it is and the performances are
decent. Hot of The Professionals,
Collins essentially is just playing Bodie again but he makes for a convincingly
suave, swaggering tough guy and would probably have made a better Bond in hindsight than Timothy Dalton while Davis is good as
the terrorist with a neat line in knitwear and horror queen Ingrid Pitt turns up as a terrifyingly
unmaternal terrorist.

The
film’s politics are bonkers; right-wing, flag-wavingly patriotic, all wooly
liberals are divided into deluded peaceniks and leftie terrorists, Skellen’s
mission seems remarkably similar to the likes of more recent police agent
provocateurs like Mark Kennedy and
the film closes with a list of terrorist atrocities while the Labour Party
anthem, The Red Flag plays. But
be honest. You’re not watching Who Dares Wins for it’s incisive political discourse. You’re
watching it for the action, for the 20-minute bravura sequence when Skellen
turns the tables on the terrorists and the SAS storm the building. It’s
a violent, claustrophobic assault on the senses, the P.O.V. shots from within
one SAS trooper’s gas mask heightening this sensation and predating the likes
of Doom by 20 years. Apparently
staged and choreographed by real-life SAS men (all listed as ‘Anonymous’ in the
closing credits) who took part in the Iranian Siege, it’s a tense, stunning,
sweaty-handed climax to a film which can be seen as an unsubtle recruiting ad
for the SAS. But, if you switch off your brain, it’s brutal,
thick-ear fun.

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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