Sharpe’s Peril is a British TV film from 2008, usually shown in two parts, which is part of an ITV series based on Bernard Cornwell’s historical fiction novels about the English soldier Richard Sharpe during the Napoleonic Wars.
Contrary to most parts of the TV series, Sharpe’s Peril is not based on one of Cornwell’s novels.
Both are set in 1817, two years after Sharpe has retired as a farmer in Normandy, so chronologically they come after Sharpe’s Waterloo (1815) and before the final novel Sharpe’s Devil (1820-21).
In Sharpe’s Challenge and Sharpe’s Peril, Sharpe and his comrade in arms, Patrick Harper, have been temporarily called out of retirement and asked to go to India.
The story continues from where Sharpe’s Challenge left off. On their way home to England, Richard Sharpe (Sean Bean) and Patrick Harper (Daragh O’Malley) reluctantly agree to escort Marie-Angelique Bonnet (Beatrice Rosen) to the hill fort of Kalimgong, where her fiancé, Major Joubert (Pascal Langdale), is stationed. They encounter a baggage train heading to Madras, made up of soldiers from the King’s and the East India Company’s armies, commanded by the young Ensign Beauclere (Luke Ward-Wilkinson), engineer Major Tredinnick (David Robb), and Subedar Pillai (Rajesh Khattar). Included in the train is a redcoat prisoner named Barabbas (Amit Behl), an Indian princess (Nandana Sen) and her retinue, and Tredinnick’s pregnant wife (Caroline Carver). When the train is attacked by forces of the bandit Chitu, the Subedar is wounded. They are saved by the timely arrival of Colonel Dragomirov (Velibor Topic) and his cavalry squadron. With no one more qualified, Sharpe is forced to take command.
Trouble comes from within the train as well. Sharpe discovers that Barabbas is in fact the son of Obadiah Hakeswill, the man who murdered Sharpe’s first wife. Flying into a rage, Sharpe almost kills Barabbas on the spot, stopped only by Harper’s intervention. They also face opposition from Colour Sergeant Wormwood (Steve Speirs), a British soldier who dislikes Sharpe’s methods and fosters feelings of resentment among his men, which grows when Sharpe punishes two of Wormwood’s men for drunkenness and attempted rape.
Arriving at Kalimgong, Sharpe and Harper find the entire garrison killed, with the exception of the fort’s commander, General Sir Henry Simmerson (Michael Cochrane), Sharpe’s old enemy. Strung up naked in the courtyard, Simmerson’s mind is addled with the heat and he seems to only speak nonsense, such as “save the harvest.” Major Joubert is not among the dead, to Marie-Angelique’s relief, but neither are the Company ledgers that reveal what has been stolen from the fort. The Subedar succumbs to his wounds and dies.
Continuing on, the train finds a farming village destroyed by bandits, the entire harvest stolen, and everyone dead but a young girl who witnessed the attack. Between what the girl saw and Simmerson’s addled ramblings, Sharpe realises that not only were these people growing opium for the Company, but Colonel Count Dragomirov and Major Joubert were responsible for the slaughter in the village and at Kalimgong, using bandits as scapegoats.
The train is forced to leave mounts and wagons behind when the bridge over a river is found to be destroyed. While crossing, Dragomirov and his men attack. Joubert grabs Marie-Angelique and rides off with her. Sharpe tries to pursue, but Wormwood uses the chaos to try to kill Sharpe, managing only to wound him in the shoulder. Harper drags Sharpe to safety.
Dragomirov’s troops retreat. Once his wound is treated, Sharpe takes a horse and leaves to rescue Marie-Angelique, putting Harper in command of the train. When Sharpe finds Joubert, they fight. The weakened Sharpe is disarmed, but Marie-Angelique shoots and kills Joubert with his own pistol. However, Dragomirov’s cavalry finds them, and takes them to their field headquarters on the Indian plains. Meanwhile, during the night, the seriously wounded Tredinnick sneaks away, as he is slowing down the train. He tries to ambush Dragomirov, but his shot misses, and Dragomirov stabs him and leaves him for dead. Lance Naik Singh (Raza Jaffrey) finds Tredinnick and hears his dying words: Dragomirov’s lie that Sharpe is dead.
Dragomirov shows Sharpe around his field headquarters, where Indian slaves produce opium. He offers Sharpe Joubert’s position and promises to keep Sharpe’s people prisoner rather than kill them, but Sharpe turns him down. Later, Dragomirov threatens to give Marie-Angelique, who has been dosed with opium, to his men, so Sharpe agrees to lead Dragomirov to the train and convince Harper to surrender. During the night, Dragomirov has Sharpe chained in a pit with cobras, but he gets free, rescues Marie-Angelique, and catches up with the train. Dragomirov follows, but Sharpe uses gunpowder to create a roadblock.
When the train comes to a village, Mrs. Tredinnick goes into labour. Sharpe has no choice but to stop and defend the place. He gets the village’s leader, the real Chitu (Ulhas Tayade) and the rest of the residents on-side for the upcoming battle. Singh repairs a very old cannon. Wormwood wants to desert, but his two cronies decide to fight alongside Sharpe. That night, Sharpe apologises to Barabbas for his earlier treatment and agrees to let him fight, but later, Wormwood frees Barabbas and tells him that Sharpe plans to execute him in the morning. Both Barabbas and Wormwood ride away separately. Wormwood joins Dragomirov and tells him all about Sharpe’s defences.
When Dragomirov attacks the next day, Sharpe’s men resist strongly. Beauclere is fatally wounded while defending the women. Wormwood kills one of his former comrades (with the other also perishing in the battle), but Harper kills him in a hand-to-hand fight. At the last moment, British cavalry soldiers arrive, led by Barabbas, who had ridden the entire night to bring reinforcements. Sharpe duels Dragomirov and kills him.
After the battle, Sharpe says his goodbyes to Marie-Angelique, who talks of visiting Sharpe’s farm in Normandy, and to Simmerson, with whom he has an almost-friendly conversation, before he and Harper ride off for home.
You can find a full index of Sharpe’s Film here.
Production & Filming Details
- Director: Tom Clegg.
- Writer: Russell Lewis.
- Music: Dominic Muldowney and John Tams.
- Original Network: ITV1.
- Release Date: 02 November 2008 (Part 01) and 09 November 2008 (Part 02).
- Running Time: 138 minutes (2 x 90 minutes minus adverts)).
- Country: UK.
- Language: English.