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The Final Option

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The Final Option

"The Final Option" redirects here. For the Hong Kong film, see The Final Option (1994 film).
Who Dares Wins
File:Who Dares Wins - uk film poster.jpg
Poster for the film's UK cinema release
Directed by Ian Sharp
Produced by Chris Chrisafis
Euan Lloyd
Raymond Menmuir
Written by Reginald Rose
Starring Lewis Collins
Judy Davis
Richard Widmark
Music by Roy Budd
Cinematography Phil Meheux
Editing by John Grover
Studio Richmond Light Horse Productions / Varius
Distributed by Rank Film Distributors (UK)
MGM/UA Entertainment Company (US)
Release date(s)
Running time 125 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Who Dares Wins (U.S. title: The Final Option) is a 1982 British film starring Lewis Collins, Judy Davis, Richard Widmark and Edward Woodward, directed by Ian Sharp. The title is the motto of the elite Special Air Service (SAS).

The plot is largely inspired by the Iranian Embassy siege of 1980, during which the SAS stormed the building to rescue those being held hostage inside. Euan Lloyd, the film's producer, got the idea for the film after watching live television coverage of the event, but he had to move quickly to prevent the idea being taken by somebody else. An initial synopsis was created by George Markstein. This was then turned into a novel by James Follett as The Tiptoe Boys, in thirty days. Meanwhile, chapter-by-chapter as the novel was completed, it was posted to Reginald Rose in Los Angeles, who wrote the final screenplay.[1]


A demonstration by unilateral nuclear disarmament protesters (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) in London is interrupted when one of the protesters is violently killed. British security forces learn that a militant group attached to CND has been planning a significant act of terrorism for the near future. The person killed during the protest demonstration was an undercover intelligence officer who had infiltrated the terrorists. The Commanding Officer of the Special Air Service, Colonel Hadley, suggests a new line of inquiry for the investigation.

Two foreign officers arrive to train at the SAS's headquarters: Captain Hagen is a member of the US Army Rangers and Captain Freund is a member of the German GSG9. They are taken to the Close Quarter Battle house and witness an SAS room entry assault. Colonel Hadley introduces them to the SAS man playing the hostage, Captain Peter Skellen, and informs them they'll be with Skellen's troop, consisting of Baker, Dennis and Williamson. During an exercise in Brecon Beacons, Hadley and Major Steele discover Skellen's troop torturing Hagen and Freund. Skellen is dismissed from the Regiment. The torture and dismissal are a ruse to repaint Skellen as a disgraced former SAS operative, and Hagen and Freund are innocent victims in the scheme.

Skellen's intelligence contact, Ryan, advises him to meet Frankie Leith and Rod Walker, the two people who lead The People's Lobby, the militant group believed to be planning the act of terrorism. Skellen tells his wife that he'll be going away for a while on a mission. Skellen arranges to meet Leith at a bar frequented by PL members and initiates a romantic relationship with her, to the annoyance of Walker and his cohorts Helga and Mac. Leith takes Skellen to the organization's offices and introduces him to the group. Leith appreciates Skellen's SAS background, and offers him a job as security consultant to the PL; she also allows him to move in with her. To strengthen Skellen's cover story, Hadley informs Hagen and Freund of Skellen's location; the wronged men attack Skellen at Leith's home and inflict a severe beating. As a result Leith's few remaining doubts about Skellen vapourise, but Walker and his cronies still are not fully convinced. Helga observes Skellen meeting the same unknown individual (Ryan) in various locations. Their scrutiny intensifies when Walker and his associates witness Skellen's meeting with his wife and daughter. They use photos from their surveillance to convince Leith that Skellen is not all he seems. Walker orders Helga to kill Ryan, cutting Skellen's link to Hadley. Hadley has no choice but to trust Skellen's abilities to uncover the group's plans and escape alive. He orders police protection for Skellen's family.

Despite his official advisory capacity, Skellen is denied details about the upcoming PL operation. On the day of the operation, Leith and Walker instruct Helga and Mac to take Skellen's family hostage. Leith uses this to blackmail Skellen into unconditional co-operation.

The terrorists and Skellen arrive at the US Embassy in a hijacked coach. Wearing stolen US Air Force uniforms, they gain entry to the secure compound and take hostages of the US Ambassador, US Secretary of State, US Commander-in-Chief of Strategic Air Command, and British Foreign Secretary, along with their wives and the embassy staff. Hadley and his police counterpart, Commander Powell, arrive at the Embassy to receive the demands of the terrorists: unless a US nuclear missile is launched at Holy Loch Naval Base, all the hostages will be killed. Currie questions Leith's motivations, and Leith responds that her ultimate goal is the disarmament of the whole world. This opens a debate about method and political philosophy that only antagonizes the terrorists.

Meanwhile, Dennis and three fellow SAS troopers arrive at Skellen's home. They set up in the attached house next door, using sensing devices to covertly observe Helga, Mac and their captives through the wall.

Skellen manages to separate himself from the group by feigning a need for the toilet. He uses a torch to signal Hadley via Morse code, telling him to attack at 10 a.m. while Skellen creates a diversion. Hadley can't get permission for an SAS attack because the British Home Secretary insists that Powell resolve the situation through negotiation. As the tension mounts inside the embassy, a mistake by one of the terrorists causes the death of the SAC C-in-C. This enables Powell and Hadley to get the permission for their assault.

Frayed nerves cause Helga and Mac to squabble with their charges, allowing the SAS operatives next door to burst through the wall and kill both Helga and Mac.

As the SAS mount an assault on the embassy, the terrorists panic. Skellen overpowers and kills two terrorists. The SAS, deploying from helicopters, force open doors and enter through windows. As they methodically clear the embassy, Skellen kills more terrorists including Walker. Skellen joins with Baker and his troop to search for Leith, as the other troopers bundle the hostages to safety. When Skellen hesitates to kill Leith on sight, Major Steele kills her before she can kill Skellen.

The Ambassador thanks the troopers as they leave the embassy. Skellen and his troop apologise to Hagen and Freund, explain the reason for their actions, and make peace. Skellen departs on one of the helicopters with his colleagues.

An on-screen list of notable terrorist incidents appears over the closing credits, accompanied by a rendition of The Red Flag.



According to the DVD commentary, the film was made with the help of the 22 SAS Regiment at Hereford, although their commanding officer Peter de la Billière had initially refused to help in a pre-production meeting with Euan Lloyd. Director Ian Sharp, who was hired due to Lloyd's liking of his direction in the TV series The Professionals, was invited to SAS headquarters at Stirling Lines where he met with some of the troops who assaulted the Iranian Embassy. With the co-operation of the SAS achieved, production moved ahead swiftly.

An SAS trainer was used to train the actors portraying SAS troopers. However, Sharp says Collins required no training and impressed the SAS instructor with his skills.

During one of his visits to Stirling Lines, Sharp had met with a Fijian trooper who'd had a mishap during the Iranian Embassy assault. The trooper told how he got caught up in his descent and his uniform caught fire due to the explosives used for their forced entry. Inspired by this, Sharp had a similar scene inserted.

The first scenes were shot in Portobello Road market in January 1982.

Others were shot in Kynance Mews, W2.[2]

When it came time to shoot the SAS assault on the US Embassy, the crew had prepared the helicopters and stuntmen but the SAS offered to do the scene instead. Sharp accepted as he thought the look they gave could not be replicated by the crew.

Filming wrapped after 7 weeks. Lloyd started to organise the publicity campaign, but like his previous film The Wild Geese, word had already started to spread that the film was a right-wing propaganda film attacking the peace protesting CND organisation.

Critical reception

Film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said: "There are so many errors of judgment, strategy, behavior and simple plausibility in this movie that we just give up and wait for it to end. You know you're in trouble when the movie's audience knows more about terrorism than the terrorists do."[3]

Who Dares Wins was also panned by some critics as being right-wing. Sight and Sound described the film as "hawkish".[4]

Film critic Alan Patterson had a favourable review and summary of the film in 2010. He concluded, "All in all this is an entertaining British action picture that beats many of today's offerings into a cocked hat. There's the necessary hint of menace to make it work and to involve the audience. A great cast with an excellent score. In short, a well made movie. Movie score : 8" (out of 10).[5]


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • Rotten Tomatoes
  • Unofficial Lewis Collins fansite
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