On a demonstration against nuclear weapons, an undercover agent of the government is killed with a crossbow bolt, sending the authorities worrying that the so-called People's Lobby are nothing more than a front for Communist terrorists. They accept that many of its members are innocents, concerned for the state of the world, but these citizens are obviously playing into the hands of darker forces. So what's the solution? Thinking that the organisers of the Lobby are planning an attack, the powers that be send two delegates to a top secret S.A.S. training ground to see if they can assist. These two take part in an exercise led by Captain Peter Skellen (Lewis Collins), but he pushes things over the edge when he ties them up and beats them for information. This results in the Captain being drummed out of the regiment - but this was his scheme all along, for now he can go undercover with the Lobby and foil them once and for all...
In the eighties, the era of the New Age, the last gasp of the seventies hard man was possibly Who Dares Wins, scripted by Reginald Rose. Here were real men, exemplified by Collins, men who could drink fifteen pints a night and still win in a bare knuckle fight, men who eschewed namby pamby muesli to feast on raw meat, men who didn't see anything wrong with kissing other men as long as it was behind closed doors - well, OK, maybe not that last bit. For if there's one thing we learned from watching Collins on T.V. in The Professionals, it was that he definitely wasn't gay, and here he could play the he-man to prove it beyond any doubt. But for some reason, the film has him not running around with his colleagues tossing grenades hither and yon, but romancing U.S. rich girl terrorist Frankie (Judy Davis) for Queen and Country.
This is even though he already has a wife and baby daughter waiting loyally at home, who can only console themselves with the thought that Pete isn't enjoying himself. Why is he called Peter Skellen anyway? We never see him at the piano, crooning with a brass band accompaniment. What? That was Peter Skellern? Hmm, there must be a connection... Back at the plot, our hero introduces himself to Frankie after she has been performing in a hilarious nuclear armageddon-themed musical number for politely clapping theatre restaurant customers, and before you can say Defcon One he's at her place enjoying a post-coital snuggle. This means he's joined up with the Lobby, but not all of them are convinced of his intentions and he is followed by the likes of Ingrid Pitt in tremendously exciting action scenes which involve Pete jumping on and off buses to meet his contact.
Actually, nothing is exciting about Who Dares Wins. It was made at a time when the big genre of the eighties, the action movie, was in its infancy, and being British there are a lot of dull scenes with the terrorists laying out their dogma and Pete pining over his family, all of which are the screen equivalent of chewing cardboard. The People's Lobby are indeed planning an attack, and hold the American ambassador's country house to ransom while he's entertaining high ranking guests, so the S.A.S. have to be called in. The film was inspired by the T.V. footage of the regiment retaking the Iranian Embassy in London during 1980, so you would have thought it would have been sensible to pack in as much of this kind of incident in as possible, but mostly whatever we see of them is relegated to endless training missions in the background. When they finally do stage their rescue, it's all over with in five minutes, with Collins only joining them at the last moment. If the film shows anything, it's that all sides of the political spectrum were obsessed with being blown up in atomic warfare, but the hysterical posturing here does nobody any favours, with its coda making Who Dares Wins more paranoid wish fulfilment fantasy than anything else. Music by Roy Budd.