Frederick Forsyth Presents: A Casualty of War (1989)

Country: United Kingdom
Tom Clegg
David Threlfell, Alan Howard, Shelley Hack, Amanda Burton, Richard Hope, Nadim Sawalha,
Paul Chihara

A big plus for the Frederick Forsyth Presents series is that each episode starts with Frederick Forsyth retelling events pulled from news headlines, often juxtaposed with newsreel footage, so it is easier to believe the events presented in these episodes as being factual. This is further enhanced by what is generally a no-name cast – Brian Dennehy and Beau Bridges being the highest profile actors to appear in the series (Liz Hurley doesn’t count – because she was just a young actress starting out when this series was made – many years before Austin Powers and Bedazzled).

A Casualty of War starts with news footage of American President Ronald Reagan addressing the nation about the United States bombing of Libya. Then Frederick Forsyth steps into the picture, strolling down beside the Thames in a pastel blue suit, that I suspect was not even fashionable back in 1989. Forsyth tells us that in the United States attack on Libya, they bombed leader Moammar Ghadafi’s home. Consequently, Ghadafi had a nervous breakdown. Once he recovered, he vowed vengeance not only against the United States, but Britain too, because they had allowed the Americans to use their Naval bases for support.
Ghadafi chose the IRA as the instrument of his vengeance and was to supply them with a large shipment of weapons. British Intelligence finds out and spymaster Sam Macready (Alan Howard) decides to send a man to the Middle East to find out when and where the shipment is to take place. The man Macready chooses is Tom Rowse (David Threlfall). Rowse is an ex-SAS operative who now spends his time writing spy thrillers.

Rowse’s new career hasn’t slowed him down however, and soon he is on the case following the links in the chain. His first port of call is a nightclub in Hamburg – which plays some truly horrible music. Here he meets up with some exiled lads from the IRA. They steer him to Vienna where he meets a Russian. He’s another go-between, and he directs Rowse to Libya and General Saleed Jaloud (Nadim Sawalha). Rowse hits a major stumbling block when he gets off the plane in Libya. Jaloud is at the airport waiting for him, but not with open arms. The General orders that Rowse gets straight back onto the plane and leaves the country.

It seems like Rowse’s mission is a failure, but as he is being deported, Jaloud suggests that rather than going straight home, he should stopover in Cyprus. Of course, Rowse does just this and awaits instructions. Now what is a secret agent – even if he is a part time one – to do, when he is a strange land with a few hours to kill? While dining he meets Monica Browne (Shelley Hack) who is a horse breeder who has been attending an auction, and then – well, I’m sure you get the idea!

A Casualty of War is a pretty bare-bones production but it is never dull. This is primarily due to David Threlfell who is a pretty charismatic lead and his biplay with Alan Howard as Macready is a highlight of the show. Now while I enjoyed this show, unless you are a pretty hard-core spy enthusiast, I wouldn’t go hunting it down. If it happens to be on television, and you have nothing better planned, by all means, sit down, watch and enjoy – otherwise I’d save my viewing time for a show with a little more polish and bang for your buck.

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