Sharpe's Mission is one of those rarities in the Sharpe movie series: a chapter that isn't based on an original book. The films had of course never fit the books entirely (especially Sharpe's Gold, which bares little resemblance to the source novel), but Mission was the first time the cast and crew opted to make a story completely from the ground up. Fans of the series need not worry though and while it may not be as good as Sharpe's Company or Sharpe's Battle, it still delivers a solid hour and forty minutes of peninsular war entertainment.
Sharpe's job this time around is to journey into enemy territory along with a sizable force and blow up a French supply fortress that is laden with ammunition. Joining him is the usual supporting cast of loyal riflemen, duplicitous officers and a variety of heroic misfits. Not least amongst these is Pyecroft (Nigel Betts): a hook handed explosives expert with half his face missing who spends most of the story hiding behind a black leather mask and whose sympathetic romance with a gypsy girl engineers the requisite tugging of the heart strings, even if it isn't entirely fleshed out. Additionally, there's Mark Strong putting in a fine role as the standard Nemesis Of The Week, Major Brand. His is an interesting character as Brand is not your usual snivelling Public School Toff turned idiot officer, but a ruthless soldier who Sharpe actually respects and admires, though of course this changes come the finale.
Possibly the most entertaining performance though can be found in Warren Saire's portrayal of Shillington, a journalist from London who has come to write about the war and winds up trying to seduce Sharpe's wife. Watching him prance around in his expensive clothes and ridiculous top hat, fainting at the sight of mutilated bodies and fawning over Jane is utterly hilarious, especially when he finds Harris picking holes in his intellectual musings and ham fisted poetry.
As usual, no Sharpe movie would be complete with a massive ruck to round things off and once again, the luckless French army get a sound kicking. Surrounded in the fortress they're trying to blow up, the English find themselves battling a force that outnumbers them five to one and having to rely on hastily put together grenades and their own toughness to survive. It may be a bit short by the usual standards, but once again the production team don't see their budget as a setback. It's not Helm's Deep by any means, but it's still an action packed finale to get the blood pumping.
In short, if you've seen any of the preceding Sharpe movies or read one of the books you'll know what to expect. The lack of a base novel to draw inspiration from doesn't hamper it in any way and the only real setback is that in places, it gets a bit slow and it just isn't quite as exciting as some of the other episodes. Plus, Harper doesn't get as much screen time as usual and is mostly in the background throughout. Still, if you're a fan of the series or even just a casual Sean Bean fan you'll find plenty to sink your teeth into as it delivers more of the blood, guts, military macho and heaving breasts that have made Sharpe such a popular character.