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

Trailer unavailable.

Horatio Hornblower: The Even Chance – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Andrew Grieve

Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Robert Lindsay, Dorian Healy, Paul Copley, Sean Gilder, Jamie Bamber

Synopsis: This is the first in a series of television movies based around the character Horatio Hornblower, as created in the novels by C.S. Forester.   In this episode we meet Hornblower on his first tour of duty in His Majesty’s navy as midshipman.    After he comes aboard his ship, he learns the reality of service in the fleet prior to the commencement of war with France following the Revolution.

A review by Film Nerd.

For me, this film began an obsession.   I subsequently fell in love with this period of history, watched all the remaining films as they were released, devoured all of Forester’s novels on the character, watched the Gregory Peck movie, and it culminated in me not only visiting Nelson’s ship the H.M.S. Victory, but also to build a model of the same ship (interminably near completion!!)

At these early stages as midshipman, the lowest officer’s rank, we quickly learn the hardships of the service.   Things do not start well for young Hornblower (Gruffudd).   At 17, he is considered by some to be too old to be starting in the service, given many of his companions have been learning since the age of 12.   To compound issues, he distinguishes himself as the midshipman who was sick at Spithead.   In plain English, he was ill before the ship even set sail.   He is also cruelly victimised by the senior midshipman onboard, a Mr. Jack Simpson (Healy).   In short, Hornblower has signed up for a living hell.

He shows he does have some degree of intelligence and creativity, and upon outbreak of war with France, he is transferred to the H.M.S. Indefatigable, under the command of Captain Sir Edward Pellew (Lindsay).   A stern but fair captain, he with time recognises some talent in this fledgling officer and fosters it.   However Hornblower’s hardships continue.   He has a disrespectful unit to run, including characters who are to be series regulars, Matthews and Styles (Copley and Gilder respectively).   And even this victory with the men does not prevent a shadow from Hornblower’s past rising.

This is a taster of what becomes a fascinating series.   Given the nature of the period, it is a predominantly male cast, which may deter some female viewers.   Gruffudd’s portrayal of Hornblower has the potential to draw a female crowd however, in a way that Russel Crowe in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World proved unable too.   Gruffudd receives top billing with Lindsay, who performs an admirable Pellew.   He walks that fine line between gruff disciplinarian yet inspiring leader with great skill and confidence.   The film also features a young Jamie Bamber, as Hornblower’s fellow midshipman Archie Kennedy, another series regular, who went on to bigger things, later appearing as Lee “Apollo” Adama in the reimagined series of Battlestar Galactica.

If you are interested in the series, there is no better place to start then the beginning.   If you do so, yet do not enjoy it, feel free to ignore my reviews of future episodes in the series.   If you are a fan though, I look forward to having my faithful readers accompany me on a fantastic voyage.

4 stars (out of a possible 5)

Horatio Hornblower: The Even Chance on IMDB

Horatio Hornblower: The Even Chance on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ad-hYMmvctY]