Based on a true-life incident, The Wind and The Lion tells how rebel chieftain Raisuli (Sean Connery) – the last of the Barbary pirates – kidnaps a rich American woman, Eden Pedecaris (Candice Bergen) and her children and keeps them hostage until a ransom is paid.
The time is 1904, the place Morocco. The incident provokes the new American president, Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) into using dramatic gunboat action, completely shattering the intentions of the European countries who are trying to get a permanent foothold in the territory. At the same time, it gives him an ideal issue on which to fight his forthcoming presidential campaign.
Where this movie is so successful is in the way it contrasts sweeping action with intelligent, thought-provoking dialogue, callous diplomacy with a boy’s hero-worship of the Arab chieftain who is his captor, and a civilised woman’s fascination with someone who is completely different to anyone she has known before.
There are shades of The Sheik (1921), moments of humour, inevitable reminders of Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and moments of brilliance from Brian Keith who makes Teddy Roosevelt a brave, pathetic, reckless character who stubbornly goes ahead with what he believes to be right, no matter what the consequences: “Why spoil the beauty of the thing with legality?” he says when contemplating the invasion.
Excellent performances from the rest of the cast, splendid desert vistas and a majestic music score from Jerry Goldsmith make this movie something of a rare experience.
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