A picaresque character comedy about two English soldiers during WWII who go AWOL for some private action vs. Jerry, "Two Men Went to War" recalls '50s British flag-wavers crossed with the bumbling eccentricity of the classic BBC-TV series, "Dad's Army." Solidly crafted, strongly cast pic doesn't hit a thoroughgoing comic tone, signaling a polite tube future for this modest production.

A picaresque character comedy about two English soldiers during WWII who go AWOL for some private action vs. Jerry, “Two Men Went to War” recalls ’50s British flag-wavers crossed with the bumbling eccentricity of the classic BBC-TV series, “Dad’s Army.” Solidly crafted, strongly cast pic doesn’t hit a thoroughgoing comic tone, signaling a polite tube future for this modest production.

Based on a true event, yarn follows aging Sgt. King (Kenneth Cranham) and youthful Pvt. Cuthbertson (Leo Bill), both in the Army Dental Corps, who chug across the Channel, in summer 1942, with some handguns and a bag of grenades to blow up two German battleships. Loony expedition ends with considerably less glory wandering the French countryside, and a deus ex machina intervention by Churchill’s intelligence chief, Major Merton (Derek Jacobi, reliable). Vet character actor Cranham lacks leading man presence and is too low-key as the crusty King, but an impressive lineup of experienced thesps in supporting roles gives pic some flavor. Richard Harvey’s score, riffing on Thomas Tallis and Elgar, keeps things moving, while direction by John Henderson (“Loch Ness”) is routine. Period look is good on a budget.

Two Men Went to War

U.K.

Production

A Guerilla Films release of an Ira Trattner/Little Wing Films production. Produced by Trattner, Pat Harding. Executive producers, Keith Hayley, Robert Bevan, Charlie Savill, Amanda Coombes, Amit Barooah. Co-producer, Sally French. Directed by John Henderson. Screenplay, Richard Everett, Christopher Villiers, adapted from the book "Amateur Commandos" by Raymond Foxall.

Crew

Camera (color), John Ignatius; editor, David Yardley; music, Richard Harvey; production designers, Sophie Becher, Steve Carter; art director, Sam Stokes; costume designer, Jill Taylor. Reviewed on videocassette, London, Oct. 28, 2002. Running time: 108 MIN.

With

Kenneth Cranham, Leo Bill, Derek Jacobi, Rosanna Lavelle, Phyllida Law, James Fleet, Julian Glover, Anthony Valentine, David Ryall.
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