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Film / North Sea Hijack

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North Sea Hijack is a 1979 British action thriller film directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, starring Roger Moore, James Mason, and Anthony Perkins. It is based on the novel Esther, Ruth and Jennifer by Jack Davies. The film has been re-issued under several other titles: North Sea Hijack was the original British title, but the film was issued internationally as ffolkes and later shown on TV as Assault Force. Trailers for the original U.S. theatrical release included the tagline "He doesn't need a licence to kill", referring to Roger Moore's most famous role, though the role he plays here is vastly different.

Moore portrays Rufus Excalibur ffolkes (yes, with two lower case f's; it's still pronounced "folks"), an eccentric veteran of the Royal Navy turned freelance counter-terrorism consultant who specializes in amphibian missions and trains a commando of frogmen. When terrorists seize two oil platforms and a cargo in the North Sea, ffolkes and his team are recruited to come up with an anti-terrorist assault plan. The terrorist group is led by a man calling himself Lou Kramer, who demands a ransom in exchange for not blowing up the platforms and the cargo within 24 hours. The rest of the film follows ffolkes's plan coming into fruition bit by bit.


Tropes in the movie:

  • The Alcoholic: ffolkes always has a bottle of scotch at hand and says it should only ever be drank "neat".
  • all lowercase letters: "ffolkes" doesn't start with a capital letter.
  • Attempted Rape: One of Kramer's men attempts to rape Sanna, but is interrupted by Captain Olafsen.
  • Ax-Crazy: Kramer. He seems to spend most of his time insulting people, killing them, or screaming.
  • Badass Crew: ffolkes' frogmen might lack of personality, but they're perfectly trained for the job.
  • Batman Gambit: One of the steps of ffolkes' strategy to buy more time is to have a gigantic gasoline explosion go off and pretend the Ruth rig was destroyed by a failure to defuse the bombs attached to it (the rig is so far away and past the horizon that it can't be seen from the Esther) and thus Kramer won't blow it up. Kramer buys the destruction but he still reaches for the detonator at the appointed time (he explicitly says "at this time I would have been doing this anyway") and it's only other things happening and drawing his attention that prevents things from becoming much worse.
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  • Big Bad: Lou Kramer, the obnoxious, Ax-Crazy leader of the terrorists.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Rufus Excalibur ffolkes is probably the most misogynist man alive in the whole of Great Britain (or pretty damn close) and full of Brutal Honesty, but he is a masterful strategist that has trained the best amphibious tactical assault team in the United Kingdom, if not the world.
  • Cute Kitten: The UK government knows that medals don't impress ffolkes, so they award him with three kittens (named Ruth, Esther and Jennifer to commemorate the mission) instead. They give the desired impression.
  • Dangerous Windows: Kramer and Harold are shot with harpoons through windows.
  • Deadly Euphemism: After the battle is over, ffolkes orders his men to get rid of the last surviving hijacker. Given his "leave no survivors" approach, one can imagine what this means for the mook.
  • Death by Childbirth: Both ffolkes's parents died upon his birth. It is not elaborated further as to just how his father managed to die at the same time.
  • Demolitions Expert: Kramer's Number Two, Harold Shulman, conceived the bombs they attached to Ruth and Jennifer.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: Seemingly a precursor to the genre, with terrorists hijacking an oil platform, beating Die Hard by nearly a decade. A variation in that a lot of the plot's run time goes into all sides trying to outsmart each other.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: ffolkes' Establishing Character Moment in the film is him giving his team a harsh dress-down for being inefficient on their training... and then making them run the same underwater course again while he's dropping grenades in the water to encourage them into swimming faster.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: A shot of the Victoria Tower, one of the Palace of Westminster's Clock Tower with its trademark chime then one of 10 Downing Street is all the viewer needs to figure the crisis cabinet of the Prime Minister takes place in London.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Even Lou Kramer jumps in shock at the (faked) explosion of the Jennifer oil rig and when he tries to continue talking to the officer in charge of Ruth (who hung up, on ffolkes' orders) he says that he understands why the man did that, and frankly can't blame him.
    • ffolkes is a pretty big misogynist, but when he finds out that the "cabin boy" that just saved his ass is actually a woman, he doesn't takes back his gratitude.
    • ffolkes also begrudgingly expresses a little respect for the (female) prime minister.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: A bagpiper is present when ffolkes is awarded for his deeds in the end.
  • Freudian Excuse: The reason why ffolkes dislikes women so much? He was forced to wear girls clothes until he was ten. Among other things (ironically, he later mistakes a female crew member, dressed in manly clothes, for a boy).
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Kramer easily snaps and screams at people.
  • Harpoon Gun: ffolkes and his men are armed with them to take down Kramer and his Number Two in the climax. Justified because of the needed stealth, and ffolkes is quick to mention that his men are well-trained in anatomy and will surely make the gun's one shot an Instant Death Bullet.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: ffolkes. After he heard that the gentlemen club he is part of started taking female members, he resigned from it immediately. That being said, he recognizes the valor of some women like the Prime Minister and Sanna.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja: During the final assault, while the rest of his team wear black diving outfits - the better to not be seen at night, ffolkes is saddled with a bright vermillion suit instead, making him stand out like a sore thumb to any mook with functional eyes (of course, most of the mooks in this film lack this, apparently).
    • He was not originally part of the underwater assault team, so when plan A failed, he had to get a wetsuit from the oil platform's own stock. Vermillion was the only color available. note 
    • Possibly lampshaded when one of ffolkes' own men mistakes him for an enemy.
  • Instant Death Bullet:
    • ffolkes' men shoot two harpoons at Harold. He dies instantly after the second one as he was trying to push the explosives' button.
    • Averted with Kramer, who's mortally wounded by ffolkes with a harpoon in the stomach but dies a few minutes later, attempting to activate the detonator (ffolkes spots him, pushes his hand away and disarms the detonator).
  • Jerkass: Kramer's not Affably Evil or Faux Affably Evil in the slightest. He insults the captain, mocks his Norwegian accent, makes several bad jokes about his victims, and routinely screams at people. The only time he expresses any amount of humanity is when he is shocked when one of the oil platforms appears to explode and says he understands why the admiral hung up on him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Even though ffolkes dislikes women, he still has some more polite moments towards them.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: ffolkes, minus the "Kindhearted" part.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: "Lou Kramer" is not the real name of the Big Bad, he just lifted it out of a Manhattan phone book.
  • Name and Name: The original novel Esther, Ruth and Jennifer. It refers to the names of the supply ship, oil rig and the oil platform. They're also the names of the kittens ffolkes is rewarded with at the end.
  • Nerd Glasses: Worn by Harold, the terrorists' bomb expert and Kramer's Number Two.
  • No Name Given: We never learn Lou Kramer's real name, as he operates under a name that he randomly chose from a phonebook.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Prime Minister is a woman. Not surprising, given who was Prime Minister at the time.
  • Pistol Pose: ffolkes on one of the posters.
  • Preppy Name: Rufus Excalibur ffolkes, not to mention badass.
  • Private Military Contractors: ffolkes and his commando. They are more of a private anti-terrorist force.
  • Protagonist Title: The film was released as ffolkes outside the UK.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: ffolkes does does needlepoint embroidery to pass away time. It has kittens on it, unsurprisingly.
    • Nearly invoked via the red scuba suit ffolkes dons for the final assault.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • The Prime Minister. Even ffolkes recognizes she has guts.
    • Admiral Brindsen follows every single advice of ffolkes in his handling of the crisis despite not being very keen on using "civilians" (rather Private Military Contractors — and ex-Navy all of them) as commando to put a stop to Kramer's blackmail.
  • Resentful Outnumbered Sibling: ffolkes grew up with five older sisters and had to wear their hand-me-downs. This, coupled with a marriage, contributed to his dislike of women.
  • Retired Badass: ffolkes was a Royal Navy commando being going freelance and becoming more of a consultant, although still very much involved in the field.
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: Lou Kramer and his gang who commandeer the oil platform are essentially pirates, and very ruthless.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • The plan to take out the terrorists originally included ffolkes being on board the Esther (disguised as an aide of the negotiating Admiral) with a concealed pistol (they would ask to use the ship's radio at a certain time, which would put ffolkes right on the ship's cabin at the time of the raid). The problem then became that Kramer caught Hate at First Sight of ffolkes and ordered him off the boat immediately, necessitating ffolkes' swim back to the Esther with gear facilitated from the rig so he could be part of his team's assault.
    • Unfortunately the gear included a bright vermilion diving suit, which results in one of ffolkes' own men mistaking him for an enemy. In order to save his own life, ffolkes has to throw the man overboard. Unfortunately, he was the one who was supposed to set off stun grenades at the last moment, so ffolkes has to shoot Kramer himself with a Harpoon Gun.
  • The Spartan Way: The introductory scene has ffolkes using live hand grenades in a training exercise.
  • The Strategist: ffolkes is an expert in counter-terrorism and knows exactly what kind of plan must be elaborated to stop Lou Kramer's blackmail operation.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Kramer lapses into this more and more as the film progresses. An especially noteworthy example occurs when he figures out that the sailors on the Esther were trying to poison him and his gang.
    Kramer: What were you gonna do, sailor boy? Fill us full of poison and then laugh while we rolled around and died? Is that what you were gonna do? WAS IT!?
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: The crew of Esther attempts to poison the terrorists with tampered food and coffee using colchicine. Unfortunately, Kramer catches wise and force-pours the whole kettle of tainted coffee down the cook's throat then throws him overboard. Sanna manages to stay alive by feigning to fall overboard and hiding in a lifeboat.
  • Team Title: One of the many market-based titles the film was released as outside the UK was Assault Force.
  • Thanks for the Mammary: ffolkes mistakes Sanna for a boy when they initially meet. He later realizes that Sanna really is a woman when he grabs her chest while he is making her warm.
  • This Is No Time for Knitting: Said almost word for word by Ruth's secretary when she sees ffolkes is doing his embroidery to pass the time. ffolkes explains that, considering that an important part of the plan is to drive Kramer crazy by pretending to be following his demands at a painfully slow pace, then yeah, it actually is a good time for knitting.
  • Thrown from the Zeppelin: Herring is killed after he decides to not to go with Kramer's plan.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Kramer degenerates from a collected (if rude and obnoxious) criminal mastermind to a shrieking maniac as the film progresses. Of course, that was part of ffolkes' strategy all along.
  • We Need a Distraction: The bomb Kramer's crew put on both oil rigs and Esther have hefty counter-tampering measures and it's pretty obvious that they can't be disarmed in time — so ffolkes' plan? Have the Royal Navy set off a massive explosion to make the terrorists believe that Ruth blew up sky-high because of some accident while trying to defuse the bomb and thus buy time for the specialists.
  • Western Terrorists: The hijackers. Their leader Lou Kramer doesn't like to be called as such, as he claims to do it for money rather than any ideology.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Along with Thrown from the Zeppelin, and perhaps mixed with He Knows Too Much and You Have Failed Me. Herring (Kramer's mole who spied on the Esther crew and pretended to be on their side) wants to leave Esther on the same helicopter as ffolkes, both because he can't handle being seasick anymore and because he wants no more in the operation, even leaving his part of the ransom to the others. Harold shoots him for his trouble as the helicopter takes off.