Horatio Hornblower: Loyalty,
directed by Andrew Grieve
(A&E/ITV, 2003)

The saga of Horatio Hornblower moves into events detailed in C.S. Forester's third novel, Hornblower & the Hotspur, with the penultimate made-for-TV movie, Loyalty.

And this one, which involves a complicated assault by land and sea on French soil, is by far the best of the series so far.

The film begins during an uneasy peace between Britain and France, but no one expects it to last -- least of all Admiral Sir Edward Pellew (Robert Lindsay), who keeps a wary eye on the French coastline. He sends his prodigy, Hornblower (Ioan Gruffudd) to scope out the situation aboard the Hotspur, with the aid of disaffected Frenchman Major Cotard (Greg Wise). Hornblower of course brings the devoted Lt. Bush (Paul McGann), along with loyal crewmen Matthews (Paul Copley) and Styles (Sean Gilder), among others, to guide his sloop in action.

There is deceit and betrayal from unexpected quarters, disappointing examples of cowardice and plenty of the courageous action one expects from Forester's enduring naval hero. There's even time for a little romance.

I find I'm enjoying this series as much the second time through as I did the first, even though these made-for-TV movies lack the big-screen budget and effects that a full-blown production could have afforded. My sole disappointment is that there's only a single installment remaining in the short-lived run. I've said it before, but wouldn't it be great if Gruffudd and his crew could be enticed back for another series set later in Hornblower's life? Here's hoping!

review by
Tom Knapp

19 November 2011

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