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If you haven't seen the Sharpe series - you're either not from this country
or you made the mistake of watching something else or going out on a
This series is based on a number of books set in the Napoleonic era from the
Penninsula wars through to Waterloo itself.
Richard Sharpe, the central character, is a professional soldier, promoted
from the ranks to a commissioned officer. Blunt, honest, heroic, honorable
and sarcastic (and god forbid - from Yorkshire!!!) he earns the admiration
of his men and the distain and scorn of the upper classes that traditionally
formed the Officer class.
Throughout the series, he travels with a close knit bunch, from his
Sargeant, Harper to Danny, one of his privates "...over the hills and far
If you are interested in this period, track these 2-hour specials down. If
not, check it out anyway - it's worth it!
Sharpe's Waterloo was the last of the series and held to the generally
excellent standard of its prequels, and in some cases even exceeded it (The
Prince of Orange two fingers scene for example) - unfortunately, the budget
could not stretch to a more convincing depiction of the battle in general -
unsurprising considering the scale.
Nevertheless - I'd certainly give it another viewing!
Last of the Sharpe series (for TV anyway - there is one further
post-Waterloo novel) and they all go out with a bang ! The only real way to
have ended the story - a bitter, deadly but final episode.
From the other comments it's interesting how events 200 years in the past can still stir national rivalries in this day and age. For information, at Waterloo, Wellington was in command of a coalition army only the core of which was made up of British troops (the bulk of the Peninsular army had been disbanded or shipped to the colonies). The remainder (as Cornwell points out) was made up of German and Dutch/Belgian forces. Some of the German and all the Dutch/Belgian forces had been fighting for Napoleon as recently as 1813/4. There was every reason for Wellington to be cautious of them.
Richard Sharpe fights the Battle of Waterloo. This is a dense,
action-packed, fast-paced conclusion to the Sharpe series and a very
worthy capstone. I'm tremendously sorry to see it end and would love to
The producers stretched their TV budget to the limit in order to mount convincing battle scenes for the finale, with considerable success (although this series will never rival a Hollywood studio production). We are given enough information about Waterloo to appreciate the dramatic events and feel very much in the middle of the fighting. Sharpe is in fine form as are Harper, Harris, Hagman, Wellington, Lucille, Jane and Lord Rossendale, who are all present along with a slew of guest stars and faces from earlier in the series. Rossendale in particular gets a share of the spotlight and his character is developed in unexpected ways. The central plot device is that Sharpe has returned to the army and been assigned to the staff of Prince William of the Netherlands, but becomes disenchanted with the prince's incompetence and roams the battlefield saving the day hither and yon. It works.
I won't comment on the central issue of what becomes of Sharpe at the end except to say that there is a very moving and intelligent resolution of his military career.
The only negatives are: First, with so much action, so many characters and so many stories being concluded, the whole thing sometimes seems a bit dizzy. Second, the British accents are often very tough for American ears to decipher, and important dialogue and plot points can be missed. (This is a problem with the Sharpe series as a whole but here, with so much shouting and guns blazing in the background, the problem is magnified.)
There is one shot of Jane Sharpe in a negligee that is nothing less than awe-inspiring.
Highly recommended, as is the whole series. The Sharpe series will remind you at various times of War and Peace, For Whom the Bell Tolls, the Horatio Hornblower stories, Vanity Fair, The Dirty Dozen, The Red Badge of Courage and All Quiet on the Western Front.
P.S. - I can't help being puzzled at the over-the-top reactions to my comment about the British accents. I have no complaint about the accents (any more than I'd have a complaint about a character speaking French in a Truffaut film), so there's no need for outrage. I was simply warning U.S. viewers about the issue so they won't be surprised when they have to rewind to catch missed words. (And "British accents" is a perfectly proper collective shorthand expression for English, Scottish, Welsh, etc. accents. My source: Simon & Schuster College Dictionary (3d ed.).
It was always going to end like this. After four years and thirteen
movies, battling all over France and Spain, it was inevitable that
Richard Sharpe and the chosen men would find themselves fighting at
Waterloo, one of the most famous battles in military history. Given
that the previous two episodes had been a bit lacklustre, the pressure
to give Sharpe a good send off must have been tremendous but they
needn't have worried, as Sharpe's Waterloo is a glorious culmination to
the initial run.
Considering what an epic clash Waterloo was, all that needed to be done for this particular film was take the familiar characters and drop them into the thick of it and by and large, that's what they do, but that isn't to say there's no storyline here. Promoted to Colonel, Sharpe comes face to face with his treacherous wife Jane and her lover, the pathetic Lord Rossendale once more. Tempers flaring, Sharpe demands his money back and soon, Jane is plotting to have Rossendale kill him in the confusion of the coming battle. At the same time, Sharpe must deal with his new commanding officer, the inept Prince of Orange who seems determined to pay no attention to advice whatsoever. And the armies of Napoleon are marching ever closer.
Okay, it might not be the most in-depth narrative but nevertheless it delivers on everything you'd expect from a Sharpe movie. The officer class who disapprove of Sharpe are toffee nosed imbeciles all, Abigail Cruttenden's heaving breasts appear to have become even larger and nearly half the episode is dedicated to the titanic battle itself. Come to think of it, the only ingredient missing is a woman in peril...
All of this talk though is just window dressing for what is the chief appeal of this chapter: the battle of Waterloo itself. The production team had worked wonders with their limited budget before but they outdo themselves on this one. You might not see thousands of men massacring each other on the killing fields, but nevertheless there is a tremendous sense of scale this time around. The skirmishers clash in rifle exchanges in the woods before withdrawing to their main regiment for some bloody brawls around farmhouses. Gun smoke drifts across the field, shells explode amid packed formations to tear men to pieces, bodies fly from rooftops and massive French marauders swing axes into the fray, giving the carnage a sense of total chaos. Elsewhere, cavalry runs down fleeing infantry and the recurring sight of corpse strewn plains make this the most apocalyptic fight of the series. It really feels like the world is ending.
In short then, a triumphant end to a great set of movies. It might not exactly have a storyline worthy of Shakespeare, but it succeeds partly because of this. After all, it's a story about Waterloo and the men who fought there, so all that was ever necessary was a massive fight and reliable old characters. It's not the best entry (Sharpe's Company and Sharpe's Battle are still superior) but the reputation remains intact...provided nobody points out the glaring pot hole of Harry Price magically coming back to life after getting his head blown off earlier in the series.
If America only knew how good this was,it would be the highest rated
Made-For-TV movie series of all time(hard to believe there are more people
out there that would rather watch "The Columbo Mysteries" than Bernard
Cornwell's Sharpe Chronicles- that just goes to show the power of major
network name-brand advertising.
The Richard Sharpe movie series has been television at its finest. I have seen all of the BBC Sharpe series movies,"Sharpe's Waterloo" is my favorite of the films. However I tune in to PBS everytime they air the Sharpe movies. So far all the movies have been based on the Sharpe Chronicles - adventure novels written by Bernard Cornwell(the same author who wrote "Rebel"). Each Movie chronicles the on-going adventures of Richard Sharpe who is a Brittish Lt. in the Brittish military during the late 1790's-to early 1800's during the Napoleonic era in Europe. I sincerely believe that each one of these Films has been good enough to have shown at the movie theaters,if the producers had wanted to. Unlike other Made-For-TV films,The Hornblower films do not have that Made-For-TV feeling to them,like most television movies have. However each of the Sharpe Movies picks up exactly where the last one left off. The only negative thing I can say about this movie series is the use of an electric guitar as the background music- I have to take points off for that, because the sometimes screeching guitar noises can become annoying at times.
A common misconception that people who havent seen these movies have is that all of these films go to gether as a mini-series- that is not true. The Sharpe movies are not a mini-series,all of these films are individual movies about the same charactor, However they are sequels to each other each picking up where the last film left off.- with all the same actors playing the same roles in each film(EXAMPLE:think of the James Bond films-that same principle applies to the Sharpe movies,but unlike Bond, the Sharpe films are sequels)
If you have seen the Sharpe movies and you liked them and you wish to see more similar themed programing, I will suggest A&E's Horatio Hornblower movies(6 movies in all- same basic priciple as the Sharpe movie except Hornblower is in the Brittish Navy to whereas Sharpe is a ground soldier)
I give the entire Sharpe movie series 4 out of 5 stars. Its near Perfect entertainment- but you cant please everyone, so for those of you dont like epic Napoleonic era battles,classic historic style drama,high stakes adventure, and danger on the European battlefields,if you dont like stuff like that-there is always a Columbo re-run for you to watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
His portrayal of Silly Billy is fantastic! Just as it should be. However, it's a bit too convincing - i really cannot imagine why Rebecque stands by him.
Waterloo is an excellent book and the adaptation doesn't disappoint. It is a little bizarre that Sharpe and Harper get to randomly ride around the battlefield, but it does make great television. After watching the Matrix I wanted a long leather coat - now i want a bashed up greatcoat like Sharpe's.
Some wonderful interaction between Sharpe and Harper in this one - their longing to see Napoleon, and Harper's attempts to emulate Hogan are particularly good. However, probably the strongest characterisation in this adaptation comes from Rossendale. His pant wetting scene at the Duchess of Richmond's ball is brilliant, and his obvious discomfort with his wife's murderous plans is clear. His death scene was a bit tame considering how he gets it in the book, but we can't have everything.
Price makes a welcome return from the dead, but is criminally underused. It's also nice to see the return of Hagman and Harris. I was gutted to see them go, I really thought that they might make it through. Great poignant death scene for them though!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A great ending to the Richard Sharpe series. I am an enormous fan of
the books by Bernard Cornwell, and I have read all 20 of them. I have
also seen some of the episodes, Waterloo among them. Sean Bean is
without doubt an amazing and talented actor, and Daragh O' Malley is
the perfect sidekick. John Tams as Hagman is my favorite rifleman
(besides Sharpe and Harper), episode and book.
Some minor things though. Waterloo would have made a ten out of ten had it been more like the book and more specific on some of the characters' fates.
The episode is awesome, but in some scenes, they would have made it look better had they involved more men, as in, more soldiers and battalions. But that is only a small thing. Another thing is that they wrapped up a few things without too much detail. For example, (spoiler) when the Prince is shot, they made it look as if he had died. Not true though. In the book and in reality, he was only wounded. Also, they could have put in the details (from the book) of Sharpe being approached, saying that Rossendale had died and Jane was waiting for the news about the battle. Sharpe laughs sourly, saying he wont be the one to tell, because he doesn't give a dime about her. That would have confirmed the fate of Jane better, and the Prince's.
All that aside, this is an incredible episode, and I recommend it to all who are wondering whether Sharpe is worth it.
This is one Sharpe that I failed to see on TV when it first came out.
And when I finally did see it I had mixed feelings about it. The film
is a kind of reunion and last hurrah for Sharpe and what remains of his
riflemen. The pros are of course the reunion of characters that we've
come to know through the series of films, one of Sharpe's major
subplots sees a resolution, and, for good or ill, we see the fates of
The film itself is rather kludged together. It feels like a patchwork, and the filmed story, not the actual story, but the shots themselves, totter on be incoherent at times, as well as some of the actions of the characters. My guess is that the production team were trying to wind up the film series as best they could, but in the end all they wind up doing is confusing the viewer with some incoherent actions on the part of the main characters.
That, and the battle of Waterloo is never fully realized. Considering that this is a made for TV movie, and one that has the limitations of a UK budget no less, it's no wonder things are a bit scaled down. We're told references to engagements by the characters here and there as they point to one clump of soldiers and then to another. That's not really a big deal. What is a big deal is that we never see the soldiers maneuvering like they're supposed to be. Again, this isn't Sergey Bondarchuk "Waterloo" with tens of thousands of cheap Soviet soldiers to act as extras, but ITV's version of the same battle on a shoestring budget. That's not really a big deal. But what is a big deal is that the Sharpe production team did need at least a couple hundred more people in costume to really fake the size of the armies. But, we can kind of get over that.
What I can't get over is that I'm a huge fan of the film series, have read a few of the books, and am at a loss as to what the story in this film is all about. Sharpe actually meanders here and there for no rhyme or reason, and we the audience are left scratching our heads. Certainly not a fault of the excellent thesping going on here, because all the actors hold their own and gives us excellent performances. If fault were to lie somewhere, then it's with both the screenplay artist and director; probably more the latter than the former.
The final scene and final shot are perhaps how the series should have ended (which it didn't), and is a nice segue into re-watching the films all over again, but the meat of the film could stand to use some tweaking. An interesting project would be to go back and insert scenes with soldiers, or to digitally add more soldiers here and there to really add size and scope to this production. Even so, that's not going to counter for a weak story.
It's not a film I'd recommend, even for Sharpe fans, but, like the infamous third season of 1960's Star Trek, it is what it is and isn't all that bad I suppose.
Give it a shot, and judge for yourself.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Spectacular ending of the Sharpe series. Very fast paced and sometimes chaotic. You really get the feeling a war is going on. 70% of this episode is full of action. Sharpe, now Lt. Colonel is more confident than ever. If I had been a soldier in his regiment, I would definitely follow him. It is also nice to see that the other officers listen to him when they are talking about strategy. It seems that he finally has gotten the respect he deserves. Paul Bettany, as the prince William, does justice to the name "Silly Billy". Very strange to see that they let him command his army even when it is obvious (his own subordinates laugh at him) because he is completely incompetent. Lord Wellington was forced to make use of foreign allies since most of the British were sent out to the colonies. (I bet the indigenous people would not have mind them returning to Europe.) That is the reason why they didn't object to "Silly Billy" being put in command of his Dutch army. (I don't know if this historically is correct. But like most things in the Sharpe series, it is about adventure and action. The historical accuracy is a bonus. Prince William is the direct cause of the death of Hagman and Harris when he orders them to open the gate so he can escape. Their death really got to me, because I liked them very much. That is what happens when you follow a series like this. You get to know them well and then when something happens it affects you. I loved the reaction from Sharpe when he hears about their death and the cause. I also liked how they left the ending open. Usually I am against these kinds of ending but in this case it was fitting. It made we wonder what had become of Sharpe and is an invite to future adventures. There were two episodes / films that came after. Not as good as the original ones but still decent. I hope that rather sooner than later they will make more. This undoubtedly is one of the best series that has graced the small screen. And if you have not seen it by now you should.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This last major Sharpe episode in the original block of series ties things up nicely and given the limited TV budget does a neat job of portraying Waterloo. Best of all, for those of us who've grown to hate Jane Sharpe, it provides a satisfying end with Sharpe not responsible for her downfall but she having a disaster none the less. However...
The book tries not to fall into the trap of having Sharpe basically win the battle but as usual the TV series has him practically doing so despite the fact, plain and simple, that in a fit of anger at the incompetent command of the Dutch prince William, he leaves the field and abandons his men at a crucial stronghold and a crucial point. I can't imagine Sharpe going so far nor Wellington sparing him after the battle.
The French for once are allowed to fight fairly well not being gunned down by the dozen by Sharpe's chosen but would it have been so hard to admit that the battle was nearly lost at the farmhouse Sharpe and his men had been holding? Perhaps this relates to Sharpe's abandoning the place...It would look bad if the hero were shown to have nearly caused the loss of Waterloo in a hissy fit. While kudos to the series producers and director for being willing to show Sharpe shooting a superior officer he believes is killing his men, it would have been equally courageous for Sharpe to realize his lack of restraint nearly cost the battle. Sad to see two of Sharpe's last faithful chosen men killed after surviving so much. Nice to finally in this episode see Harper remembering that he has a wife after he'd seemed to have forgotten her in the last two and although he joins in the battle he pulls out soon as he's convinced the victory is won and he's had his peek at Boney.
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