Review: They Who Dare

Directed by Lewis Milestone and written by Robert Westerby, during World War II, British commandos are sent to destroy a Luftwaffe airfield on a Greek island. Starring: Dirk Bogarde, Denholm Elliott, Akim Tamiroff, Gérard Oury, Eric Pohlmann, Alec Mango, David Peel, Sam Kydd, William Russell and Peter Burton.

Classic film always found a seemingly endless supply of military exploits to turn into features, this time finding its way over to the scenic spot of Rhodes, Greece. While you’d imagine that it would bring the opportunity for some stellar visuals, the style feels remarkably within the same typical set-up as those that came before and after. It adds the occasional pleasant view but the directorial work and overall aesthetic make very little of an impression and it’s a problem that the film has throughout. The opening scene in a bar with plenty of colour and energy has more to offer than the rest of the film can keep up with. The restoration work on this one also doesn’t feel quite as strong, with the colour being fairly inconsistent at times.

Unfortunately the story goes much the same way, there’s initial potential but it really struggles to build up a significant tension or suspense. There just isn’t enough risk or determination put behind its ultimate goal and a lot of the time it feels meandering. It injects sporadic moments of action and espionage but despite only coming in at an hour and forty-five minutes, it feels drawn out. Part of the problem is that the characters feel so solidly inside of the typical box that there’s little to make you invest in them. They don’t have any particular individuality or charm, despite being portrayed by talented actors.

It’s disappointing to see legendary actors like Dirk Bogarde and Denholm Elliott filling fairly mediocre roles. That’s not to say that their performances aren’t of a great quality, there just isn’t a lot for them to do. As it enters its final scenes, they do get to ramp up the intensity and dramatic qualities to their portrayals but it’s late in the game and can’t quite pull you in enough to make it worth the journey to that point. It’s a well-cast ensemble but sadly, they’re just fighting against an easily forgettable story.

They Who Dare is a watch for dedicated war film fans but outside of that, audiences may struggle to find much to hold their attention. The direction and cinematography don’t have much to offer and they’re capturing a story which doesn’t have enough energy or suspense to make it work. Bogarde and Elliott are a great duo but the film isn’t capitalising on their talent nearly enough. It could be a good story but the progression, pacing and atmosphere are lacking.

Verdict: ✯✯ | 4/10

Newly restored and out on DVD, Blu-Ray & Digital from 5 September

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