The Wild Geese Reviews
Before the days of the Expendables movies came this all-star action adventure featuring a cast on the more ripe end of the life line. This really is a red blooded slice of beef of a film meaning there's tons of action that doesn't shy away from the blood and guts of combat and there's a great feel of one of those old war comic books about it. Despite the really strong cast this is a film you watch more the action than the performances and the fact that it tells its simple plot so effectively. Without doubt this is one of the better men on a mission movies and well worth tracking down for all true action film fans.
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!.
Looking at it now, it's sort of like an early attempt at some sort of "Expendables", but with brilliant British actors of the time instead. If you love films like The Dirty Dozen, you're gonna love this.
I've been never too keen on films with Roger Moore in because of his Bond films (except for Cannonball Run), but he's a better actor than I thought, and he proves it here.
Plot/Summary57 years after the original attack, Ripley and a crew of marines return to the planet to kill the remaining aliens that have slaughtered the colonists on the planet.
This is one of those movies that, whenever we find it on cable, no matter w
hat part is on, we can't help but tune in. There is too much awesomeness in this movie to identify just one reason why Cameron's 1986 sequel to Ridley Scott's Alien works as well as it does.
Aliens continues the story of the number one cause of hurtin' for chicks named "Ripley." It adds a new layer to the Alien's biological cycle, introducing an Alien Queen and ? in doing so ? one of the big screen's best and scariest villains. The hit sequel is a bullet of a movie that packs the perfect amount of character development, horror and action into a story that could have been thread-bare in a lesser craftsman's hands.
Ripley's return to LV-426, the planet where she first encountered the alien, is now home to a shake-n-bake colony of families and workers, which is basically ringing the dinner bell for the xenomorphs to prove that, in space, everyone can hear you scream if you die loud enough.
Ripley joins an elite group of Colonial Marines sent on a bug hunt, and they quickly find that neither flame thrower nor bug-eyed troopers by way of Hudson are a match for things that bleed acid and sweat slime. Cameron's decision to keep Ripley and Newt as the emotional core of the movie makes the increasing threats around them all the more conducive putting us on the edge of our seats.
That, coupled with the Power Loader vs. Alien Queen showdown, underscored by James Horner's epic score, is why Aliens is not just a great Cameron film, but one of the best movies ever made.
The story is a fairly old a frequently reused one. Band of mercenary gets a mission by some person or entity of debatable reputation. Said person or entity double-crosses them, usually in a way which leaves them stranded and with a very short life expectancy. One or more of the mercenaries did not have his or hers imminent demise written into the script and thus ruins the plans, and usually the life, of one or more persons on the double-crossing side. Nothing wrong with a trusted and tried story as long as it is well done.
In 1978 when this film was made I guess the actions scenes were considered fairly good. Today they are rather mediocre though. The mercenaries that are supposed to be experts are behaving in a fairly amateurish manner. The bridge attack scene is especially annoying in that these people just sit there waiting for the plane to make pass after pass instead of getting their behinds under cover. In a later scene Richard Harris is seen shooting at the bad guys together with a bunch of his fellow mercenaries but his gun is pointing in a 30 degree angle upwards. He might have hit some real geese but sure as hell not any of the bad guys.
As so many films from the 70's it also tries to make a political statement but that particular part is just boringly old today. A South African running around and calling the guy they are supposed to rescue for "kaffer" all the time because he is black is at best a historical curiosity, and a fairly boring one at that, today. Naturally a 5 minute, equally boring, speech from the black guy turns the South African guy. Boring and silly.
That is not to say that the movie is a bad one. It is still worth watching. The first parts of the movie, when the main characters are introduced, is quite enjoyable. I especially liked the bad attitude of Col. Faulkner. I have always liked Richard Burton as an actor and he doesn't disappoint in this movie. Roger Moore is of course always Roger Moore. Whether or not you like him is another story. Also, even though it is not up to today's standards there are plenty of watchable action in the later parts of the movie.
So I did enjoy my oldie movie evening but the movie was not as good as I remembered. But then that is maybe not too surprising when you re-watch a move that you first saw as a kid.
I remember seeing "The Wild Geese" in the early 80s during the VHS boom, and loving it. You can not really fail with such a lineup consisting of Moore, Burton, Harris and Kruger and with a script that allows the characters to be introduced properly. Reseeing it 2012 gave me the same thrill as back in the 80s, but with the exception that this time around I was able to grasp the political point of views in the story, something you kind of did not get as a12-13 year old. I reckon though it is worth noticing that they did shoot the movie in South Africa during the Apartheid regime, and at the same time having a script that takes more or less a political stance against apartheid. Not sure how they were thinking there. It contains as well of realistic action sequences in a mix with a touch of humour, a great title song "Flight of the Wild Geese" by Joan Armatrading and a cool title design made by the great Maurice Binder. "The Wild Geese" is amongst the big 70s war/military/political movies with a great cast and I can highly recommend it. Good one.