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.
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,
there’s no one around sandy you can call me Allen’
which the Sgt Major replies
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,
me, haven’t; you got any decent friends’.
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.
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.