Horatio Hornblower: The Examination for Lieutenant – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Andrew Grieve

Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Robert Lindsay, Denis Lawson, Ian McNeice, Andrew Tiernan, Paul Copley, Sean Gilder, Colin MacLachlan

Synopsis: Hornblower is now an acting lieutenant, under the command of Captain Sir Edward Pellew, on H.M.S. Indefatigable.   His examination to become a commissioned lieutenant looms, yet he still has some lessons to learn, such as how to handle the morale of men on prolonged rations, only to have these concerns compounded by the threat of plague.

A review by Film Nerd.

The Hornblower series moves from strength to strength with this instalment, and I am not just biased by the fact that these first four television movies feature the magnificently named character of Master Bowles (MacLachlan).   No, rather we see the growing confidence and talent of young Horatio Hornblower, promoted now to the role of acting lieutenant, not surprising given his exploits as shown previously.

Yet the sea has many more challenges to present both our hero, as well as to us the audience.   We learn further of the hardships of life at sea.   When a vital supply ship is destroyed en route to the “Indy”, the men are forced onto prolonged rations to preserve the ship’s stores.   Hornblower first must learn that at times like these you do not try to restrain the high spirits of the crew, no matter how much their noise may distract from a person’s ability to study.

Which brings me to another major challenge facing Hornblower.   For his commission to be accepted, he must first pass his examination for lieutenant (as in the title above).   To avoid confusion, this episode has also has a separate title overseas, yet I choose not to use this title as it gives away a large chunk of the action of the finale.   Ironically, I have also discovered this was also the case for the chapter I reviewed previously.    Anyway, Hornblower desperately wishes to be ready to receive his commission, however he is continuously distracted.   Of course, it does not help when a diplomatic trade mission comes across the plague, leaving Hornblower in command of a quarantine ship for 3 weeks.

The casting is once again superb.   Gruffudd at this stage is really getting comfortable with the role, and his performance is nothing if not captivating.   Lindsay really own’s the character of Pellew, and encapsulates exactly what one would wish from a leader of men.   The support cast all perform their roles well, yet they do diminish somewhat in the power of this leading pair.

I say of this film what I said when I first saw it many years ago… Love it!   Bring on the next one!!

4 stars (out of a possible 5)

Horatio Hornblower: The Examination for Lieutenant on IMDB

Horatio Hornblower: The Examination for Lieutenant on Rotten Tomatoes

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