Hornblower: The Fireships

  • 1998
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Action, Adventure, Historical

Each installment in A&E’s 18th-century maritime series, based on the books by C.S. Forster, stands on its own dramatically, but the characters develop from episode to episode, so devoted viewers are rewarded. France and Spain form a tenuous alliance against the British and Captain Pellew (Robert Lindsay) is caught in the middle of the squeeze play....read more

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Reviewed by Robert Pardi
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Each installment in A&E’s 18th-century maritime series, based on the books by C.S. Forster, stands on its own dramatically, but the characters develop from episode to episode, so devoted viewers are rewarded.

France and Spain form a tenuous alliance against the British and Captain Pellew (Robert Lindsay) is caught in the middle of the squeeze play. Pellew is due to take his ship, the Indefatigable, to Cadiz Bay. Nearby, when a British supply boat runs across the opposition, Captain Foster (Denis Lawson), the vessel’s second-in command, seizes control and leads a counter-attack rather than surrendering. Although the coveted provisions don’t fall into enemy hands, only Foster and a few sailors are rescued by Captain Pellew. Simultaneously, Captain Pellew and Horatio Hornblower (Ioan Gruffudd) face tests of their steadfastness. In between his numerous duties, the hard-pressed Hornblower studies for an officers’ exam. Faced with a directive to withdraw, Pellew risks alienating his crew by cutting rations, which are at a premium due to sunken supply boats. It doesn’t lighten Pellew’s mood that his protegee, Hornblower, openly admires Captain Foster, who soon assumes full command of his own ship. To alleviate the shortage, Pellew welcomes diplomat named Tapling (Ian McNeice) aboard; Tapling plans to broker a goods-for-gold deal in Iran. Hornblower and his men row Tapling ashore, finding themselves in the middle of plentiful food; unfortunately, they're also in the middle of an outbreak of the Black Plague and must be quarantined for ten days before they can reboard. Foster sails into Horatio’s dilemma and demands a share of the meat, which may be tainted with the plague; to ensure the good health of British sailors — not to mention the people at home they might infect — Hornblower defies his former idol. Tapling, Horatio and his crew return to the Indefatigable with the long-awaited food; unfortunately, when Hornblower later takes his lieutenant’s exam, one of his judges is Captain Foster.

Regular HORNBLOWER director Andrew Grieve and writer Mike Cullen explore the ways in which caution can be the better part of valor. Avoiding the anachronisms that mar other period pieces, the expert production team whisks us back to an era when heroism more than a concept.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Each installment in A&E’s 18th-century maritime series, based on the books by C.S. Forster, stands on its own dramatically, but the characters develop from episode to episode, so devoted viewers are rewarded. France and Spain form a tenuous alliance aga… (more)

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