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The Wild Geese - Blu-ray review

The Wild Geese

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

A BRITISH war-time classic, The Wild Geese is one of those films you never tire of seeing.

Featuring an outstanding cast (Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Roger Moore), some slickly executed action and one of those endings that’s difficult to forget for the way in which you never stop willing it to turn out differently, Andrew V. McLaglen’s film is brutal, cynical and exciting.

Adatpted from Daniel Carney’s novel, the film follows a group of ageing mercenaries who are hired to venture into Africa to rescue a deposed president (Winston Ntshona) so that he can be re-instated.

The mission becomes complicated, however, once the financial benefactor behind it betrays the mercenaries and leaves them on their own, forcing them to fight desperately to escape and survive.

Leading the mission is Burton’s gruff, no-nonsense Colonel Allen Faulkner (recalling his Where Eagles Dare persona), while also on board are Moore’s stylish Lieutenant Shawn Fynn (channelling his own 007, albeit with a meaner streak), Harris’s sympathetic Rafer Janders and Hardy Kruger’s clinical Pieter Coetzee.

Put together, this rag-tag bunch recall the grizzled, world-weariness of Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (to which this film bears many similarities) with shades of the star-studded quality of Stallone’s Expendables, albeit with a greater fallibility and higher likelihood of living up to that tag. There’s also elements of The Dirty Dozen.

But the camaraderie that exists between them works well (as well as some of the tensions), making it great to see such a cast of greats working so well together.

McLaglen doesn’t skimp on the action either, opening the film with several thrilling introductions to his various characters, and dropping in some brutally violent combat sequences late on.

He also delivers a thrilling finale that exhilarates as much as it breaks the heart. The fate of one character, in particular, is akin to Steve McQueen’s near-miss of a motorcycle jump in The Great Escape, Charles Bronson’s fate in The Magnificent Seven or Frank Sinatra’s last act in Von Ryan’s Express.

Put together, though, The Wild Geese is a blast and well worth revisiting (or discovering for the first time) in this fully restored (and very welcome) Blu-ray release.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs 12mins
UK Blu-ray Release: October 8, 2012