Though I bought the DVD of Age of Heroes (2011) a while back, it was only recently that I finally got around to seeing this movie. Full disclosure, I bought the DVD because Sean Bean is one of the stars of the film, and I really enjoyed seeing him in another true story, Bravo Two Zero (1999). There was also the extra bonus of being the true story about the real Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels, and Sean Bean’s connection with Bond having played Agent 006 in GoldenEye (1995).
The basic storyline takes place during World War II. Ian Fleming, played by James D’Arcy, was then a real life British Naval Intelligence Officer who commanded and helped create an elite squad known as the 30 Commando Unit. It was Fleming's task to train them to recognize sensitive enemy intelligence materials and plan strikes to obtain them. Sean Bean plays Major Jones, who I believe is also based on a real person, and he is tasked with identifying and training the men who will be part of this elite force. In this story their mission, Operation Grendel(?) is to go into a Nazi occupied part of Norway and retrieve sensitive Radar equipment, not only to disable it, but to bring back the new technology.
The film starts with the story of misfit soldier, Corporal Rains played by Danny Dyer, being insubordinate to a superior and landing in military prison. Through a series of unbelievable coincidences he ends up being given another chance by Major Jones (Sean Bean) and joins the elite corps. We meet the soldiers as they train for their mission, but the script gives us very little about them as individuals except for Bean and Dyer’s characters. I wish there would have been more character development so we would care more about the men and what happens to them. Once they parachute behind enemy lines in snow covered Norway nothing goes as planned and they struggle to survive and accomplish their mission. The film is action all the way at this point but surprisingly there is something dated and unexciting about the action sequences.
Major Jones is the “tough as nails outside but fair and caring inside” character that Bean has played before. He does a good job with what he’s given and is always a presence on screen. There is an interesting but small scene in the film with Bean’s then wife Georgina Sutcliffe playing Major Jones’ wife. Danny Dyer is also the star of the film and plays the troubled but heroic Major Rains well, but is not enough of a personality to carry the film. William Houston, who played Boucher in BBC’s North & South is fun to watch as the squad’s tough sergeant. James D’Arcy is wasted as Ian Fleming with what seems an extended cameo. We get little of Fleming’s story here which would have added much needed interest to the film.
It is clear at the inconclusive end of the film that this is just chapter one of the story. I believe they are or were going to be three or four films in total in the series. Actually this would have made a better television series than a series of limited release films. Worth watching mostly if you’re a fan of Sean Bean, Danny Dyer, James D’Arcy or James Bond.
There are several extras that come with the DVD and more interesting than the film is a documentary that includes interviews with several of the real veterans of 30 Commando Unit.