Horatio Hornblower: Mutiny
directed by Andrew Grieve
(A&E/ITV, 2001)

Mutiny is the tensest film in the Horatio Hornblower series so far.

Hornblower (Ioan Gruffudd) is 3rd lieutenant and his friend Archie Kennedy (Jamie Bamber) is 4th aboard the Renown, a 74-gun frigate commanded by Capt. James Sawyer (David Warner). Sawyer is a revered fighting captain, but his years of service have left him mad; he is a ruthless disciplinarian who sees conspiracy at every turn. Hornblower and young Midshipman Wellard (Terence Corrigan) bear the brunt of Sawyer's fury on a mission to the West Indies.

Harsh discipline and paranoia leads to unrest among the officers, enough so that Sawyer's fears of mutiny might come to pass -- until the captain has an accident of a questionable nature, and command falls to 1st Lt. Buckland (Nicholas Jones). It may be too late, however, as Sawyer's erratic command has left Renown aground, its men ill-trained and the ship defenseless under the guns of a Spanish fort.

The Hornblower series has been most notable to date for the fine performances by Gruffudd in the title role and Robert Lindsay as Captain Pellew. But Warner deserves full marks for his portrayal of a once-great leader who has cracked under the strain of command.

This British series continues to impress, and I will hate to see it end. I suppose it's too much to ask that Gruffudd & Co. get back together for a new series from C.S. Forester's later novels?

review by
Tom Knapp

17 April 2010

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