War-torn love is the hardest love of all.
After the success of Star Wars and between the opening of The Empire Strikes Back, Harrison Ford starred in an eclectic batch of movies. There was the action film Force 10 From Navarone, the western comedy The Frisco Kid with Gene Wilder, and the World War II love story Hanover Street. Judging from Hanover Street, Ford was yet to have his pick of some of the better Hollywood scripts floating around town. Hanover Street also starred Lesley-Anne Down (Saving Grace) as Ford's love interest and Christopher Plummer (The Sound Of Music, Dracula 2000) as her blasé husband. The whole mess was written and directed by Peter Hyams (The Relic), so at least we have somewhere to point an accusing finger. Columbia TriStar drops a bomb with their DVD release of Hanover Street.
Facts of the Case
Hanover Street is about that mushy thing I like to call "love." Harrison Ford plays David Halloran, a World War II pilot who has a smart mouth and a way with women. While in London, he meets Margaret (Down), a sultry British nurse who at first deflects David's advances, than gives in. The only catch is that she's married to a Paul Sellinger (Plummer), a British intelligence agent working against the Germans.
While David is having his erotic affair with Margaret, he's sent on a secret mission to drop in a spy to do some secret hush-hush stuff in a German base camp. The hitch: the spy is none other than Margaret's husband Paul! During the mission David and Paul's plane goes down in France, and now they are stuck together to finish their mission. David soon realizes just who Paul is, and with this information must now choose between the woman he loves and job he was chosen to accomplish.
Hanover Street clocks in at around two hours, but seems much longer than that. I find it hard to believe that this movie was given a green light by a movie studio. It's not so much a bad movie as it is a desperately boring one. By the end of Hanover Street, I didn't care if the characters lived, died or told Hitler jokes. I just really wanted the damn thing to be over with. Though my plot description sounds like this might be a complex war drama, it's really a very simplistic, flaccid love story.
Hanover Street harkens back to the days of sweeping romance and lengthy action films (though it doesn't really get either of them right). I really wish I had enjoyed this movie more; in fact, I really wanted to like Hanover Street. I'm not the biggest fan of war movies, though this one really looked like it had potential. Peter Hyams has done some decent films in the past 20 years, including the horror flick The Relic and the goofy but humorous Stay Tuned (yes, I actually liked it). [Editor's Note: To the surprise of no one, I'm sure…] He's also done a lot of crap, like Sudden Death and Outland. Most of his movies have been hit or miss, and he's made the mistake of actually working with Jean-Claude Van Damme more than once (the fool). With Hanover Street Hyams squarely misses his intended target.
Harrison Ford and Christopher Plummer are two exceptional actors, unfortunately thrown into a very unexceptional movie. Lesley-Anne Down has all the warmth of a frozen burrito, and the rest of the cast is pretty much just nameless and faceless, save for Richard Masur (The Thing, My Girl) as a wisecracking bomber. Ford tries his hardest with the material but just doesn't seem right for the part. I'm not sure as I can pin point what the exact problem is, though I think that it may be his age (too young) and demeanor (too cocky). Christopher Plummer brings a certain grace to his role, though it's like trying to clean out a contaminated pool with only an ounce of chlorine. It just isn't going to happen. Oddly enough, it took me quite a while to realize that Patsy Kensit (Angels and Insects) plays the young daughter of Margaret and Paul. Just think, years later she'd show her best "assets" in the Mel Gibson action flick Lethal Weapon 2. Talk about method acting.
The biggest flaw is that the script just isn't interesting. I didn't really care about any of the characters, and the relationship between Ford and Down is not developed enough to warrant them having a believable relationship. Margaret keeps saying no, than suddenly they're in bed together. I think I must have missed something along the way. The build up to the big flight seems to take forever, and by the time we get to the goods, it's just too little, too late. After too long of a set up, I just didn't care anymore. Time is not always kind to certain movies; after over twenty years, Hanover Street is proves to be one rusty clunker.
Hanover Street is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The image for this transfer is solid, featuring bright colors and dark blacks. There was a bit of edge enhancement present as well as some grain and dirt, though they were not very intrusive. Overall Columbia has done a fine job on a print that is well over 20 years old.
Audio is presented in Dolby Surround 2.0 (English), as well as Dolby Discrete 4.0 (English, French and Spanish). Both tracks are fine, the 4.0 track sounding a bit richer than the 2.0. The soundtrack tended to have a small amount of distortion, though dialogue and effects were usually clear. One of the best things about Hanover Street is John Barry's lushly romantic score. A pity there wasn't an isolated track for this feature. Also included are English, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Thai, Chinese, and Korean subtitles.
Extra features for Hanover Street include a commentary track by director Peter Hyams. It's been over 22 years since Hyams has seen the movie (when it was first released). Hyams recognizes some of his mistakes (pointing out that shafts of light were "clearly overdone, as I did many times"), and this track tends to have lots of gaps where Hyams just watches the film. The track is nothing exciting, but if you're interested in technical aspects of the film, this may be worth your time.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The bad news: Lesley-Anne Down went on to make Beast Master III. Oh…That has gotta smart.
I really was unimpressed with Hanover Street, as you can clearly tell from my unflattering review. However, I realize that having your favorite star in a mediocre movie makes it much more bearable. Harrison Ford fans will undoubtedly want to at least see this drama once just for kicks. Otherwise, I can't really recommend this even as a rental, unless you're looking for a great tranquilizer before bed. Even so, Columbia has done a fine job on the DVD, even including a commentary track (which is a big extra considering how well this film was received back in 1979).
Hanover Street is guilty of being slower than molasses in January. Columbia TriStar is acquitted for fine work on the DVD.
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