Forgotten Films: The Final Option (1982)

For about five minutes in 1982, Lewis Collins was whispered to be a likely successor to Roger Moore for the James Bond series. This seemingly unknown film — titled WHO DARES WIN in the United Kingdom — acted as his screen-test and based on his performance alone, I would have loved to see Collins step in as 007. He has Timothy Dalton’s serious gaze and Daniel Craig’s action physique. THE FINAL OPTION, written by Reginald Rose (THE WILD GEESE) and directed by Ian Sharp (who shot second unit for GOLDENEYE), was rushed into production in the wake of the terrorist capture of the Iranian Embassy in London and successful rescue by Special Air Services. The plot here is more dramatically arched: Frankie Leith (Judy Davis) the former lover of SAS agent Peter Skellen (Collins), leads a group of terrorists to capture an embassy in England and the agent goes undercover to convince Leith to let him join. With expected violent results.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the film, as it’s not all that great, but there are nifty scenes and performances, and I still own the long out of print LP soundtrack with an awesome theme by the killer Roy Budd (GET CARTER). As stated, the main reason to watch THE FINAL OPTION is to pretend Collins is in a James Bond film; he’s quite intense and engaging. The shot of him leading the SAS team down the embassy hall while soundtracked by Budd’s sleek music is a fantastic moment and he should have been cast as 007 immediately. Another reason is to see the brilliant Judy Davis heft a machine-gun in her low-cut evening gown while mouthing political platitudes in a not-quite-right American accent, replete with lots of “fucking, man.” There’s also Edward Woodward in fine stock form as a SAS Commander and Richard Widmark as The American Diplomat.

I also enjoy the debates between the terrorists and their hostages, ridiculous though they be, since I’m a sucker for Stanley Krameresque adversarial dialogues. Even better are the action beats, with lots of rappeling and shooting, and Davis’ last moment is one of the most memorable scenes in 80’s action cinema. THE FINAL OPTION is still unavailable on DVD here, although you can pick it up on Region 2 under its original title. If you want a cinematic flashback to Reagan era jingoism and heroics, this is an interesting and underlooked timepiece.

UPDATE: RIP Lewis Collins. Ian Sharp recalls the actor with a great line: In those days, they wanted the smoothie type, like Roger Moore and, if you like, he was a Daniel Craig in a Roger Moore era.

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7 Responses to “Forgotten Films: The Final Option (1982)”

  1. YES.

    I was OBSESSED with this in 1984 when it hit HBO because when Collins, Davis and co. finally take hold of the embassy at the end, they’re wearing what look like Ninja costumes — heh, or at least ski masks. I remember being 11 and sitting anxiously through the opening 90 minutes of exposition just waiting for that final assault, and that shot of the crew running toward the camera while that AWWWWWWESOME music plays. It’s kind of like the Shaft theme on fast-forward and combined with a bit of Bill Conti’s sound from that era.

    Collins’ hair is douchetastic to boot. And doesn’t Robert Webber ham the fuck out of his every scene?

    Showtime was running this again about five years ago, and I was lucky enough to snag an ancient VHS in time to tape it. GOOD MOVIE.

  2. Oh, and this should ALWAYS be double-featured with James Glickenhaus’ excellent, similar Cold War-legit 1982 B-movie THE SOLDIER, starring Ken Wahl, a SMOOOOKING HOT Alberta Watson, and yes,

    KLAUS KINSKI.

  3. Yes, the movie is extremely suspenseful, and Budd’s soundtrack really drives the action. I wore that theme out on my LP.

    And Webber is out of control loving it. I have to grab the DVD now.

    THE SOLDIER is bad-ass and one of my favorite unsung 80’s action pics.

  4. This movie will always be one of the greatest counter-terrorism movies of all time. Solder of Fortune at that time did a large spread on the feature and if I am not mistake it was the first time they featured their front cover as a still from the movie as the SAS rappel down the front of the embassy and blow the windows out.
    The story did get a little slow at the middle, but the action sequences both at Skellen’s apartment with is wife and child being held hostage by two terrorists ( One of which is the goddess Ingrid Pitt ), and at the American embassy are incredible! Euan Loyd who watched the actual rescue by the SAS when the Iraninas took over an embassy in London fueled this production.
    Lewis Collins would have made a tremendous 007, but he admitted in an interview that he blew it. Besides, Moore stayed on for two more outings as Bond.
    I will never forget watching that movie with a friend who had spent some time in SF and he remarked that they had practiced some of that when he was in the service.
    Hint; the people wearing ski masks in the movie were probably SAS and if you read the techincal advisor credits, they say annoynmous.

    I pray that some day they will release this movie on DVD in this country and closed captioned.

    If I were an instructor at a special warfare school, all of the recruits would watch this film.

    • christian Says:

      Thanks for chiming in Andy. I musta missed that Soldier Of Fortune issue, but I was reading it at about the same time….

      And yep, INGRID PITT rules.

      I didn’t realize that Collins actually had a shot and “blew” it. I’d like to know more about that. I woulda been happy with him as 007.

      Yes, where the hell is a DVD?

  5. Do you realise that Lewis Collins tried out for the real SAS? He was in the TA (army reservists) at the time and passed the very tough selection process for the SAS, but was ultimately turned down because his high profile as an actor was incompatible with SAS operations.

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