Hanover Street wouldn’t even make it to the tiebreaker rounds of your local pub quiz, but if it’s notable for anything, it’s that Harrison Ford and Christopher Plummer once co-starred in a Lifetime-worthy war romance. In some respects, you really can’t ask for more. Two bonafide leading men, a love affair in wartime London, bombers, Nazis, and spies, oh my.
But the film is elbow-deep in clichés, which is fantastic if you want to satisfy your schmaltz quota. Ford, still coasting on his Star Wars glory when this was released in 1979, recycles his Han Solo act and brings the character back to the future as David Halloran, a hot shot American pilot who’s ace at his job, loves the ladies, and doesn’t give a damn. He meets Margaret Sellinger (Lesley-Anne Down) in the most hackneyed way possible. They chase down a London double-decker, drink some tea, and get blitzed. Faced with their own mortality, they realize they are decidedly in love.
It’s not just the nasty business of war that’s getting in the way of their romance though. Margaret is married to intelligence officer Paul (Christopher Plummer), who by his own admission is a bore of a man. Though respected and clearly good looking, he doesn’t seem to have what it takes to be someone in life. Presumably training undercover agents and fluency in French and German isn’t good enough. And we know Margaret feels much the same because she moans, in the most delicate, glass-voiced 1940s sort of way, to David about her insufferably dull husband.
There solutions to these predicaments, but the best way, the Hanover Street way, is to fix David and Paul up on a secret spy mission deep in enemy territory. Only by imperiling their lives will Paul be able to prove himself to be a real man of action, David know how to handle his lady love, and Margaret decide whom she wants to drink tea with for the rest of her life.
Watching this film can be like wading through the London fog though. The melancholic score that runs thick through the movie doesn’t sweep you so much as it pushes you into the abundant melodrama, leaving you to grasp for something that isn’t sticky with sentiment. That’s certainly not Down’s performance. Every glance is a pained look of longing. Of the male leads, Plummer has the better part, and while his dialogue could use a lift, the actor puts his talents to use as a desk man going undercover, as a Nazi no less, for the first time. Ford gets the steamier role, but besides a few tumbles in bed, all that’s required of him is true grit. He adopts a pilot’s swagger and delivers all of his lines with an unflappable rat-a-tat-tat monotone of a gunner. This unharmonious pairing of Ford and Plummer is probably the oddest thing about the film, so much so that I thought I’d fallen into some cinematic dream state every time the two shared the screen. Luckily, I woke up and chose another movie.
Prod: Paul N. Lazarus III
Dir: Peter Hyams
Writer: Peter Hyams
Cast: Harrison Ford, Christopher Plummer, Lesley-Anne Down, Alec McCowen, Michael Sacks, Richard Masur, Patsy Kensit
Time: 109 min
Lang: English, some German and French
Country: United States