The Wild Geese
(1978)

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It balances me up

Decent friends

 


Director:           Andrew V McLaglen
Producer          Euan Lloyd
Script:               Reginald Rose
                          From a novel ‘The Wild Geese’ by Daniel Carney
Editing:             John Glen
Score:               Roy Budd

 

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This tightly directed film by McLaglen has to be one of my favourites of all time. From the Euan Lloyd stable is has all the elements you would expect from a classic British war movie, Overwhelming odds, resilience in the face of danger and a good moral message. This combined with a well adapted screen play from the book by Carney gives the veteran actors a chance to shine. Ok down to the movie….

When a ruthless African dictator's rise to power threatens the investments that a multinational corporation owns in his country, the corporation hires a group of Brit mercenaries to go in and rescue the nation's deposed former leader so that he can be restored to power and business can continue as usual.

The man they hire for the job is Colonel Allen Faulkner (Richard Burton), who in turn brings two of his old army buddies into the deal. They are Captain Rafer Janders (Richard Harris) and Lt Shawn Flynn (Roger Moore). After they iron out the details of the contract (the hard-drinking Faulkner semi-jokingly states "There is a clause in all of my contracts that my liver is to be buried separately - and with honours"), they put together a list of fifty men (some of whom have fought with them in the British army) and begin recruitment.


 I’m going to try not to spoil the film for those who haven’t yet viewed it yet so will discuss spoilers generally and not in detail.  The action sequences are done well and whilst not always 100% believable are still exciting, reviewers seem to focus on the cyanide quarrels as a point of quibbling. The story is excellent and well paced – not focusing too much on the action but establishing good characters and explaining old relationships. Little details like Sandy Youngs (Sgt Major) wife not liking Faulkner, tell us something of these soldiers pasts.

 

The backbone of the film is not in any of the elements already mentioned although together they would have made a good film, it’s in the character development that is inherent in the screen play and brought well into the film. I will mention just a couple of examples. The colonels relationship with his old friend Sandy Young. Firstly we see Faulkner trying to convince him not to go and when they arrive in Africa Faulkner says to the Sgt Major,

when there’s no one around sandy you can call me Allen’

to which the Sgt Major replies

yes sir, I will sir’ despite the fact that there is no one around..

Or you could take the walk when Harris makes Burton his son’s God father, to which Burton replies,

‘Why me, haven’t; you got any decent friends’.

This could sound like a comic line but that’s not the way that Burton delivers it. In fact the monolugue that Burton delivers - could nearly be a reflection of the welsh actor real past. There is a clearly a sense of acceptance on Faulkners part of the retrobate that he is - but with this there is respect for carrying no pretence and admitting his own short comings.

Finally the development of the relationship between the South African officer Pieter Coetze (Hardy Kruger) and the black politician. Remember Coetze has been fighting black terrorists for most of his life and isn’t portrayed as racist but someone who has grown up seeing his friends killed and his country destroyed. Yet the relationship progresses - mainly because Winston Ntshona is just so good as the moderate and forward thinking Limbani. I know that those of you have seen this film will be thinking of at least one other scene but lets not spoil such a good movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                           

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The wild geese