Friday, December 5, 2014

The Wind and the Lion (1975)

Sean Connery has always been one of my favorite actors.  Not just for James Bond (though that plays a huge part) but also for the sheer awesome randomness of his choice of roles outside the 007 films.  While the role brought him fame and fortune, it also left him feeling somewhat typecast, a trend he fought like hell to avoid until the late 80's when he morphed into more of a character actor.

In the 70's though, he was hell bent on showing he could do other things.  This led to some rather interesting choices, several of which I will be covering.  And just for the sake of clarity, sometimes interesting means exactly that.  Sometimes it means "totally insane".

Let's start with one of his better ones.

Before he gave us the fantastic Conan the Barbarian, John Milius directed this fun adventure based loosely on an actual incident that occurred in 1904.  Like Connery's other film from 1975, The Man who Would be King, The Wind and the Lion is a spirited adventure film along the lines of old fashioned Hollywood epics.

Sean plays Raisuli, a Moroccan Berber chieftain who kidnaps the Pedicaris family (Candice Bergen as the mother Eden and her two children) in order to embarrass the sitting Sultan he doesn't much care for in the hopes a civil war will erupt and dethrone the man.  President Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) chooses to use the incident as a way to not only show off American military power but also bolster his reelection campaign and the end result is a nicely epic bit of adventure filmmaking with one foot dangling in reality (as in the Connery character was a real person who kidnapped someone on Teddy Roosevelt's watch) and high adventure (pretty much everything else, including the Bergen character and her kids) with some political shenanigans ensue.

For the most part, the film is an engaging, nicely paced adventure with some good work from Keith as Roosevelt (he damn near steals the whole movie), John Huston as the president's aide and of course, Connery is great.  His natural charisma and magnetic personality do wonders for the part, especially considering that at the end of the day you are watching a 6'2 Scotsman playing a Moroccan desert warrior.  He's also given some very funny bits of dialogue which he delivers with a nice enthusiasm.  Most of his post-Bond work sees him giving fairly relaxed performances, especially here.  It's fairly obvious he was glad to be done with Bond and his enthusiasm goes a long way in making the film work as well as it does.

Really, the only weak link (and even then it's not a deal breaker) is Candice Bergen.  While she is very easy on the eyes, she overplays her role just a tad more than I would prefer.  And yes, I realize that saying this about an actor in a movie with Sean Connery and Brian Keith as the most intensely macho president in American history is odd but she's not quite up to the task.  Her stuff with Connery isn't bad but it's the usual Stockholm Syndrome stuff that tends to pop up in this sort of film.

That aside, John Milius directs the whole thing with his usual boisterous, sly flair.  He gives us sweeping vistas, exciting battles and some very impressive stunts.  The film fits nicely with his ultra macho personality and apart from Conan, it's his best work.

The Wind and the Lion is a rousing, old fashioned movie (both in terms of style and politics given the director) with some good performances, a sly sense of humor and some nicely mounted action scenes.  Sean Connery is in top form, the Jerry Goldsmith score is equally good and if you like old fashioned adventure flicks, you can do a hell of a lot worse than this.  It's just good fun.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.