The Wind and the Lion is an old-fashioned, romantic adventure tale set in turn of the century Morocco and Washington DC. Parallel stories, an ocean apart, the interlocking of which in many ways foretells the world we live in today.
President Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) is facing an upcoming election. The nation is not thrilled about his handling of the Panama Canal project and although he is among the most popular presidents in many long years, re-election is anything but certain. Meanwhile, in Morocco, an American woman, Eden Pedecaris (Candice Bergen) and her two children are kidnapped by Berber brigand Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli (Sean Connery), triggering a variety of international incidents.
All of this is taking place not long before the opening of the first world war, after which nothing will ever be the same again. All the European powers, as well as the U.S., Japan, Russia, and Turkey, have their eyes on strategically placed Morocco, headed by a weak sultan who is beset by civil unrest. The Pedecaris incident has given the various nations an opportunity to send in the troops.
And they do. All of them. Including, of course, America.
Meanwhile, out in the desert, there is Mrs. Pedecaris riding with the Berbers.
“You are a great deal of trouble, Mrs. Pedecaris,” says the Raisuli, sounding deliciously like James Bond. Indeed she is. Ah, but what a woman! My kind of woman, one who will take up a sword and fight — for herself, her children and what is right, by golly.
Out in the desert are the Raisuli and Mrs. Pedicaris. He’s brave, handsome and sits a horse like nobody’s business. And she’s beautiful, fearless and proud. What a pair. I have always thought Candice Bergen among the most beautiful women ever. In this movie, she is magnificent as is Connery. They play off each other wonderfully. I don’t know if you could call Sean Connery, as a Berber Chieftain, exactly believable, but he is stunning. Flashing eyes, sharp tongue. A master of wit and charm.
It was probably the best role Brian Keith ever got too. He is entirely believable as Teddy Roosevelt. I’m ready to vote for him. Why not? At least he was straightforward about wanting the United States to militarily dominate the world and he created the national parks system.
They don’t make’em like that anymore.
The score was composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith who used an ensemble including a large percussion section and many Moroccan instruments. The music is haunting and although Jaws composer John Williams won that year’s Oscar, the score for The Wind and the Lion is stunning, possibly Goldsmith’s best; it was one of the American Film Institute’s 250 nominees for top 25 American film scores.
Filmed in Spain where the director, John Milius, had previously filmed his spaghetti westerns (even the scenes set in D.C. were actually shot in Madrid), the cinematography is breathtaking. Broad vistas, magnificent sunsets, deserts and battles on horseback with scimitars at the ready.
The film is accurate and sympathetic to Islam, making it one of the few American movies to become popular in Arab countries. It’s refreshing to see a movie that doesn’t automatically assume the only possible valid religion is Christianity.
When I say romantic, I mean it in the epic sense of the word. It’s a world filled with heroes and heroines who are larger than life. There’s not a superpower among them, but nonetheless, superheroes abound.
It’s a great movie. Without a bit of gore, grit, or gristle. No zombies, chain saws or special effects. No CGI. Just great photography, a delicious script, and terrific acting.
Because that’s what it takes to make a wonderful movie. Everything else is wrapping paper and ribbons.