“Broadsword Calling Danny Boy” by Geoff Dyer [6/10]

Geoff Dyer is a wickedly highbrow-yet-lowbrow cultural critic with a huge range of interests and consummate writing skills. Anything he writes is inherently sweet to read but much of his purview is not to my taste, so I hadn’t read anything of his for ages. “‘Broad sword Calling Danny Boy’: Where Eagles Dare” attracted me because the Alastair Maclean novel and movie were childhood favorites of mine. This short book is structured as a scene-by-scene walkthrough of the film, with Dyer mostly taking the piss out of the actors, the scripts, any damned thing at all, with polymathic asides thrown in seemingly at random. It’s a tour de force of cultural examination and I cannot express too much admiration for Dyer’s central achievement, which is to criticise the film (and even more so the book) but eventually bringing the reader along to a position of admiration. And here I am in complete agreement: if I were to watch the film now, surely I’d wince and cringe, yet it was one of the most thrilling movies of my early life, as it was of Dyer’s. This book won’t be for everyone, but lovers of film, especially action film, and lovers of exquisite dissection of a film will swoon.

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