The Wild Geese (1978)
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as Col. Allen Faulkner
as Rafer Janders
as Lt. Shawn Flynn
as Peter Coetzee
as Sir Edward Matherson
as RSM Sandy Young
as President Limbani
as Mr. Martin
as Mrs. Young
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Critic Reviews for The Wild Geese
When you're in the mood for a high-caliber, top-notch Brit action film, you can't do much better than "The Wild Geese".
Audience Reviews for The Wild Geese
Ah now this would or could be called 'Where Eagles Dare' set in Africa, after all that was the full intention of its director, to make a start studded action adventure movie. I guess for folk of the current era you could say its a possible 'Expendables' for the 70's...to a degree, but back in the day they often made films with rip roaring cast line ups like this so it wasn't overly unusual. The film is based on a novel and apparently the Wild Geese were an Irish merc army of the 17th century, but why would a modern unit of mercs call themselves that? are they Irish? is it simply because they are also mercs? odd.
The mission is simple, drop into Swaziland and rescue an African leader who has been overthrown (I think) and due to be executed by his own men, then bounce back across the border before anyone knew they were there. The team are a hand picked bunch of mercs led by ex-British army officer Richard Burton, his main choices include Roger Moore, Richard Harris, Hardy Kruger and Jack Watson. The rest are hired help all recruited for their skills and experience of course, on top of that they have support from the British government. The mercs are being funded by the ruthless Stewart Granger who (for some reason) wants this African leader saved and devised the plan.
The first thing that really hits you with this film is how charming everything is, the film is pretty old now (year I was born) but its all so quaint and olde worlde. You watch this now and look back at England and its incredible, the changes are VAST, the country is unrecognisable...but for the good or the bad? Seeing all the sets, props, outfits and military techniques its really quite amusing because you know at one time this was a slick modern action movie, but now oh my! I love how all the mercs wear that old British green camouflage getup with red berets! despite the fact they are in the barren dusty bush heavy terrain of Africa where they kinda stick out like...errr soldiers wearing green outfits and red berets.
What I really love (and miss) is the fact that all the main characters are just regular guys who happen to be good solid soldiers. They're not a squad of super roided up muscle bound Arnie wannabes posing for the camera at every given opportunity, they are average Joe's with average physiques and normal haircuts. There isn't any hyper martial arts or ginormous explosions with vehicles flying through the air or masses of bloody squibs bursting all over the bush floor or slow motion mega stunts or gun porn or destruction porn yadda yadda yadda. Its a very grounded action film that actually revolves around quite a bit of dialog covering planning, tactics, a bit of redemption, a bit of heart and some classic silver screen hokey ass acting from the likes of Moore who chomps on a cigar the entire time. I just love Richard Harris's hair in this film...its sooooo damn 70's its untrue, can you even imagine an action star with hair like that in a modern blockbuster! I wanna see it happen.
The film does start off pretty slow truth be told, nothing much happens for around the first 30 minutes at least, its all plot building and then training. When we do reach Africa the action gets going straight away as the men get stuck in rescuing their target. As I said this is no flashy modern CGI filled piece of crap, the action here is more along the lines of an old James Bond flick where enemies fall over and die when they clearly haven't received any bullet wounds. But despite the cheesy action it does feel satisfying, there is something refreshing about seeing some genuine old fashioned stars duke it out with lashings of hammy emotional drama as members of the unit go down in a blaze of glory.
The score made me laugh though as throughout the action, no matter what happens, the score always seems quite upbeat and light-hearted. Some guy just got shot in the head, Roger Moore's eyebrow is in overdrive and Richard Harris's hair is flapping all over the show in a sweaty panic yet all the while the musical score chirps along to itself as though it were on a sunny Sunday drive. At no point does the score ever seem to fit the onscreen action! I have found this with many old films and their scores and its quite bizarre when you compare them to today's thundering rousing tear jerking symphonies.
The film does descent into very familiar territory as the team gets picked off one by one as they attempt to escape their predicament. It is fun to watch and I was never that sure who would actually make it as this is the first time I've seen the film and there were a lot of mercs to choose from. Clearly the suave Moore wasn't gonna kick the bucket and amazingly Burton also makes it out alive despite the fact he's clearly way too old to be there, has a mountain of makeup on to hide his age, can't run to save his life and looks like he's about to keel over from heat exhaustion. There is effort to make the finale emotional as important team members bite the dust but personally I found the whole thing too silly really, not in a bad way but its just an old film simple as that.
Must give kudos for having a homosexual merc on the team (especially for the era), hilarious as half the soldiers look like they should be drawing their pensions but lets not forget that's actually the point...still damn funny though. The films also touches on the treatment of black folk by the white mercs (this was the apartheid era), mainly the stereotypically blonde Nazi looking Afrikaner who unsurprisingly has to take care of the African leader they are rescuing, doesn't get on at first yet in the end they have virtually kissed and made up.
It is a great military adventure which isn't entirely realistic and isn't played that way. Its more like an extended episode of The A-Team with some slightly controversial elements of the time. It almost feels like a film for boys, like toy soldiers and playing war, its daft, hokey and artificial merely giving blokes/young men/boys a chance to see their favourite Hollywood alpha males kick some ass. Its just unfortunate they set this Hollywood war game in a location where serious things were happening and it didn't really feel very suitable. But if you can look past the awkward political aspects of the era, its a solid romp at a time when male Hollywood stars were real men's men grrrr!.
A big, spectacular and explosive good time for two hours. It's smart, very funny and loaded with non-stop action. A classic action movie that you cant help but love. It's a thrilling and endlessly enjoyable British version of The Expendables. It's packed with action, humor, and a large list of British stars that all delivers the goods. I loved this film. Richard Harris, Roger Moore and Richard Burton are excellent together, they are the perfect combo of wit, attitude and heart. Movies like this are rarely made anymore but its nice to look back and see where our heroes of today were inspired from our heroes of back in the day.
Wild Bunch vibe, with a british flavour. In many ways this has the soul and form that was lacking in The Expendables. British people truly are more badass by default.
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