More Than Just Film
He swore to himself no heavy drinking on this one, no turning up to work hungover to fuck (or still arseholed). A week later he was stuck up a Norwegian mountain with nothing to do but hit the local bar with bored squaddies dressed as Nazi’s.
No heavy drinking, no drugs and no shooting his mouth off, not now there’s a possible trilogy on offer.
Nothing to do but avoid a permanently pissed-off Sean Bean in the bar hitting the locals.
He swore to his army instructor he wouldn’t let the memory of the Commando unit down. Absolutely zero fucking around on this one.
Nothing to do as food poisoning shut down the production and a cloud of volcanic ash stopped anyone from coming in or going home.
Stuck up a Norwegian mountain running out of time and money and hope.
Message from London…proceed with mission.
In a nutshell: Loosely based on the first mission for 30 Assault Unit (an intelligence gathering Commando unit put together and overseen by Ian Fleming), a nine man team are parachuted deep into occupied Norway. Their mission: to infiltrate a German radar station and bring back their latest anti-radar jamming technology. The parachute drop goes belly up and the Commandos find themselves with only minimal equipment and a crack SS unit breathing down their necks.
Stukas swoop down and bomb the shit out of everything, raining shrapnel down upon our heroes and filling the sky with great balls of fire. Like many a Danny Dyer film, the poster does it no favours at all.
Watch Age of Heroes expecting an action-packed shit-having-the-shit-blown-out-of-it fest and chances are you’ll come away bitter and twisted. In reality, it is a fairly low-key and down-beat affair in which one group of characters race across treacherous terrain pursued by another. The raid itself is a small night-time skirmish, a fire-fight, some hand-to-hand combat. There are no Stukas, there are no over-reaching action scenes, and apart from the parachute drop, there is little need for any cgi. And the film is all the better for it.
Be warned though, it doesn’t start out that way.
In a pre-credits sequence we’re introduced to our protagonist, Corporal Bob Rains (Dyer), leading a handful of exhausted and injured troops through German lines to Dunkirk in time for evacuation. Somehow stodgy and stilted at the same time, everything combines to scream INCOMING LOW BUDGET BRITISH FILM…TAKE COVER!
For all its short-comings though, the sequence does it’s job. Rains’s is established as brave, resourceful but woefully lacking in discipline. When he reaches the British line he immediately clashes with the commanding officer and gets busy making fisticuffs.
Thankfully, things improve no end when the action cuts back to Blighty. Rains, branded a deserter and languishing in a military prison, becomes pals with a fellow inmate from a Commando unit and…well, I’ll leave it there as this is a rare example of a Dyer Diary film which I can happily recommend to anyone. If you grew up watching war films on Saturday afternoons and enjoyed fine literature like this then you’ll dig this the most.
The plot itself is straight forward but boasts just enough twists and turns to stop it feeling too familiar. Director Adrian Vitoria (a veteran of Hollyoaks, The Bill and Casualty) strikes a fine balance between the action and character development, and excels in making the Norwegian mountains look both gorgeous and foreboding.
The wheels fall off slightly towards the end but I’m willing to put this down to the filmmakers thinking that parts two and three (Age of Glory and Age of Honour) would follow.
They never did.
How was if for Danny?
In another performance which neatly mirrors the film, Danny isn’t great to start off with but improves in leaps and bounds to end the film as a likeable and empathetic lead. He’s a little on the chubby side but fuck it.
Coming in the midst of Dyer’s fallow period, Age of Heroes represented a remarkable chance to reach a wider audience and finally get another box-office hit under his belt. It also gave him the chance to catch up with Sean Bean after the two of them had got on famously making Outlaw four years earlier. Right from the off though, Bean made it perfectly clear he wanted nothing to do with Dyer this time round (could this have been connected to Dyer falling out with Nick Love around the same time?). To his credit, Dyer kept his nose clean and stayed off the sauce for the whole production. How he must have wondered why he bothered, Bean walked straight into his iconic role on Game of Thrones whilst Dyer’s career continued to sink down the toilet, when they finally managed to get off that damn mountain.