A national service NCO (David Warner) who comes face to face with an embittered Irish Gunner (Nicol Williamson) who is determined to humiliate him. |
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Source: The New York Times
The Bofors Gun (1968)
September 23, 1968
Nicol Williamson Stars in 'The Bofors Gun':David Warner Plays a British Soldier
By VINCENT CANBY
Published: September 23, 1968
"THE BOFORS GUN" is a small, tightly structured movie that is full of power and tension even though it dramatizes a conflict between two completely unequal forces.
Lance Bombardier Evans (David Warner), on occupation duty in Germany in 1954, is a well-intentioned young man who simply wants to get on in a world of comforting middle-class values. On the night before he is to return to England and, possibly, officers' training school, he is put in charge of a small unit guarding a Bofors gun from—as one of the soldiers puts it—"Bolshevik harm."
In his crew is a seething Irishman, Gunner O'Rourke (Nicol Williamson), a man who has peered over the edge of his soul and seen a terrible void. During this night, O'Rourke is preparing to jump into that void—and to take Bombardier Evans with him. How he destroys Evans—using the man's own vanities—is the story of the film.
The screenplay for the British movie, which opened yesterday at the Sutton Theater, was adapted by John McGrath from his play "Events While Guarding the Bofors Gun." In its unity of time and place, and in its heightened, theatrical dialogue, the movie reveals its legitimate origins. However, it is not static and it is played with such unaffected honesty that I totally accepted its high-pitched, stylized reality.
As he showed in the stage and screen versions of "Inadmissable Evidence," Mr. Williamson seems to have a special genius for defining—in coherent terms—the state of mind of a man who has slipped his moorings and is sailing toward the outer limits of sanity. "The Bofors Gun," however, contains him, so that it never becomes, as did the movie version of "Inadmissable Evidence," a one-man show.
David Warner, who had the extravagant title role in "Morgan," is very quiet and fine in a performance that seems continually to pop with muffled little revelations about a character who is small, ineffective and selfish — and sadly understandable. Somehow he makes his face almost perfectly forgettable, like any one of a thousand faces seen in a bus station.
The film was directed by Jack Gold without any unnecessary directorial flourishes. Set for the most part in and around the guard house, the movie drives directly to its climax through a series of vivid scenes of brawling, drinking, sobering up, and even of introspection.
The only fault I'd find in the film are the few moments when it employs self-conscious symbolism. (Williamson must tell us that the Bofors gun, the workhorse of World War II, is as out of date as he is.)
There is also the dramatist's compulsion to explain how Williamson got to the breaking point (underpriviledged, over-Catholicized, he slept six in a bed as a child), but such specifics seem too small for the magnificence of his total defeat.
There is probably nothing as terrifying as the picture of a man carefully, willfully rejecting everything on which the rest of us depend for our sanity. That terror is there in "The Bofors Gun" and it doesn't require explanation.
THE BOFORS GUN, screenplay by John McGrath, based on his play "Events While Guarding the Bofors Gun"; directed by Jack Gold; produced by Robert A. Goldston and Otto Plaschkes; a Copelfilms production released by Regional Film Distributors. At the Sutton Theater, Third Avenue and 57th Street. Running time: 106 minutes.
O'Rourke . . . . . Nicol Williamson
Flynn . . . . . Ian Holm
Evans . . . . . David Warner
Rowe . . . . . Richard O'Callaghan
Shone . . . . . Barry Jackson
Crawley . . . . . Donald Gee
Featherstone . . . . . John Thaw
Sergeant Walker . . . . . Peter Vaughan
Lieutenant Pickering . . . . . Gareth Forwood