The reliably robust market for inspirational tales of World War II derring-do is efficiently targeted by generic action adventure “Age of Heroes.” This behind-enemy-lines yarn may be wholly fictional, but the Brit pic’s marketing boast — that it depicts the birth of Ian Fleming’s 30 Commando special forces unit, the alleged precursor to today’s SAS — should resonate with its target aud domestically. The U.K. home entertainment sector has proven highly receptive to World War II fare, and also to numerous titles starring authentic man-of-the-people Danny Dyer, so the pic also looks set for a successful raid on ancillary.
Prologue introduces Cpl. Bob Rains (Dyer) as a fearless English soldier whose protective instinct for his men sees him incarcerated for insubordination. Enter Maj. Jack Jones (Sean Bean) who, with shades of “The Dirty Dozen,” visits the military prison to collect former commando Brightling (Stephen Walters) for a high-stakes mission, acquiring Rains along the way. The unit will parachute into German-occupied Norway, and capture a new radar technology. Success for the operation, naturally, will prove a pivotal turning point in the war.
Director Adrian Vitoria, who cut his teeth on routine Brit TV fare such as “Casualty” and “The Bill,” and made heist pic “The Crew,” plays it straight with generic material. A botched parachute landing increases the mission’s peril, while the addition of local female agent Jensen (Izabella Miko) provides the requisite mysterious blonde even as it supplies the requisite character with ambiguous loyalties. The emotional payload is delivered an hour in, when an innocent family lays its life on the line for our heroes.
Dyer, who built his career playing drug dealers, soccer hooligans and Cockney criminals, has again chosen a character firmly within his range. His charismatic rebel Rains is by no means the actor’s first military excursion, following roles in “The Trench” and TV’s “Soldier, Soldier.” Physically imposing Bean is reliable as the unit’s gruff commander. James D’Arcy is appropriately debonair as future author Fleming.
Vitoria and lenser Mark Hamilton get bang from their limited buck in snowy Norway locations, but it takes 40 minutes of screen time to get there, and the film feels creakily televisual in earlier expository scenes and training montages. Gung-ho dialogue unabashedly lunges for bold cliche; ditto Michael Richard Plowman’s rousing martial score.
“Age of Heroes” reps the first of a planned trilogy depicting the adventures of 30 Commando, which will continue with the upcoming “Age of Honour” and “Age of Glory,” and the pic’s multiple backers have presumably calculated precisely how many DVDs they need to sell in Blighty to make these sequels viable. Value on foreign shores remains a moot point.