A Casualty of War (1989)

A Casualty of War (1989)
 
 

A Shameless Spy Thriller

David Threlfall and Nadim Sawalha in A Casualty of War

"A Casualty of War" was part of a series of stories which author Frederick Forsyth wrote that were made into TV movies. They were branded as "Frederick Forsyth presents" and featured Frederick Forsyth giving an introduction to each story as he delves into the facts in a somewhat Hitchcock style walk about. All of which would be good except for the fact that "A Casualty of War" is in fact quite dull, a spy drama which is more interested in looking at how spy operations work rather than the excitement of action. In fact the only thing which is really memorable about "A Casualty of War" is that it stars David Threlfall who these days is best known as Frank Gallagher in the British version of "Shameless".

Following a US air strike on Libyan leader Colonel Ghadaffi's personal residence, the Libyan leader agrees to supply the IRA with a shipment of weapons in revenge for Britain's assistance in the air strike. Aware of Ghadaffi's plans the MI5 persuade former SAS man Tom Rowse (David Threlfall) to go undercover and find out how the weapons are being shipped to the IRA. But it's a dangerous mission especially with all those involved becoming increasingly suspicious of Rowse who having retired has made a name for himself as a writer.

David Threlfall and Amanda Burton in A Casualty of War

The actual idea for "A Casualty of War" is quite good as it builds from Libyan leader Colonel Ghadaffi striking back at Britain for assisting the U.S. in the bombing of his personal residence. We have this story of him agreeing to supply arms to the IRA and so the British persuade former member of the SAS Tom Rowse to go under cover to get the intel and stop the shipment ever reaching Ireland. And there is something quite fascinating about all the comings and goings as Tom heads abroad and brokers deals so that he can discover how the arms are going to be shipped. You can add to this some back story as whilst Tom is now a famous author his time as a member of the SAS saw him in confrontation with various IRA opperatives who now could end up blowing his cover.

But the trouble is that none of it is really that exciting as Tom speaks to one person then another whilst going from country to country acting as a buyer for some terrorist weapons. It feels like you are meant to be questioning the people he meets, should we trust Monica Browne the attractive blonde he meets in Cyprus and will an Irishman called Mahoney realise who Tom is. But it's all rather dull as it walks through these various meetings. There is some action but not only does it play second fiddle to Tom meeting various people but it is also dull, limited by a TV budget.

But despite this there is something slightly entertaining about "A Casualty of War" and that is watching David Threfall star as Tom Rowse. Firstly this isn't a great acting performance from Threfall but it is enough to be superior to the story and it is through his characterisation that it becomes entertaining. There is something slightly comical about Rowse as he dislikes his superiors and serves up some lovely moments of back chat which bring a smile to your face. And aside from Threfall there are some familiar faces such as Amanda Burton, Richard Hope, Nadim Sawalha and Shelley Hack but none of them really add much to the movie because their characters are all rather 2 dimensional.

What this all boils down to is that whilst the actual idea for "A Casualty of War" is interesting the actual presentation of it is sadly dull. It just seems to walk through this story of a former SAS man going undercover to stop a shipment of weapons making it to the IRA and any moments of action feel like an after thought. The one good thing about it is the cast and David Threfall leads the movie nicely and is supported with some reasonable performances from the likes of Amanda Burton and Nadim Sawalha.

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