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The Wilby Conspiracy
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Wilby Conspiracy More at IMDbPro »

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19 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

On the whole, a good chase thriller.

7/10
Author: Jonathon Dabell (barnaby.rudge@hotmail.co.uk) from Todmorden, England
27 November 2004

Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine strike a winning screen partnership in this chase thriller set in South Africa. However, the most memorable portrayal comes from Nicol Williamson (an oft-underrated actor who steals the show in virtually every film he's in), as a particularly unpleasant racist security agent. The film is set against a background of volatile race relations, but the political angle of the story isn't thrust forth too heavy-handedly. First and foremost, this is a chase story... and it's all the better for it.

Bantu activist Shack Twala (Sidney Poitier) is acquited of terrorism charges in a Cape Town court. He is on his way for a celebratory drink with his lawyer Rina (Prunella Gee) and her English boyfriend Jim Keogh (Michael Caine), when they are assaulted by two racist policemen. They turn the tables on the policemen and give them a pretty thorough beating. Twala and Keogh go on the run, hoping to reach Johannesburg where Twala has a contact who can get them out of the country. However, they are pursued all the way by the bigoted Major Horn (Nicol Williamson). Horn's ultimate plan is to let Twala unknowingly lead him to the hideout of a rebel leader named Wilby.

The Wilby Conspiracy is generally a good film. The acting is excellent throughout, and the film has an unexpected element of humour, with Caine and Poitier providing several dynamic exchanges. The script is sharp, with enough incidents and twists to stay a step ahead of the viewer, and an interesting central theme. There aren't many shortcomings in The Wilby Conspiracy, though that's not to say it is perfect. The ending seems rather fudged, and some of the plot developments don't quite ring true. (The bit where Saeed Jaffrey's pretty young dental assistant attempts a treacherous double-cross is a good example of an unlikely plot contrivance). However, on the whole this is a slick, well-made and absorbing movie.

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14 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Quality Caine and young Rutger Hauer

Author: (fracturedflicks@hotmail.com) from Syracuse, NY
25 May 1999

Overlooked, althought not underrated, if you are a Michael Caine fan, don't miss this chase/early buddy film. Caine and Portier are framed and on the run from the corrupt South American gov't. The pace never lets up. Perhaps what held my interest the most was the supporting cast. Nicol (Merlin in "Excalibur") Williamson's turns in a deliciously villainous role. A real surprise was when a young (30ish) Rutger Hauer shows up to anagonize our heroes. It is his first English Speaking role, long before he wound up states side. The late Peris Khambatta makes an appearance too. The cast and socially pertinent plot will hold your attention right up to the powerful conclusion.

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15 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Fast paced action mystery thriller with Poitier and Caine

8/10
Author: honesty from Ontario, Canada
20 December 1998

This is definitely a sleeper. Not much is said about this film and yet it is one of my favorite movies starring Michael Caine. Sidney Poitier is on the lam with his new non-friend Caine who by mutual agreement have to escape. Prunella Gee plays the glue that for a while gets and keeps them together. The movie moves along quickly from cricis to crisis ending in a complete surprise. You are going to like this although there are some slow sections.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

"In A Police State, The Police Are Always Busy"

6/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
4 July 2007

I would really have liked to have given The Wilby Conspiracy a higher rating than I did. But unfortunately a really huge and ridiculous error was made in telling the tale.

Due to political pressure brought to bear from various world human rights activists, black nationalist Sidney Poitier is freed by the apartheid South African government. On the way to celebrate, Poitier, his lawyer Prunella Gee and her boyfriend Michael Caine get into a mêlée with South African police and after assaulting a pair of them have to flee.

But it turns out the government in freeing Poitier in the first place has a whole other agenda. Poitier also has something else in mind, to get a stash of diamonds hidden years ago in a robbery to aid the African National Congress.

During the course of fleeing Poitier seeks the aid of an Indian dentist played by Saeed Jeffrey and his assistant Persis Khambatta. While Poitier is hidden away in a modern day priest-hole he takes Khambatta in there with him and while the South African Security are even outside within a few feet of him, Poitier and Khambatta are doing the horizontal mambo. Now granted Poitier had been in prison for 10 years and he was understandably ready to go, still I found it a bit much. The steamy sex scene definitely sold a lot movie tickets, but it was awkwardly planted into the story.

Acting honors in this film go to Nicol Williamson as the South African Security Police Chief Horne. He is a chillingly evil man, resolute in defense of the apartheid society and a bigoted product of that same society. Williamson is living proof of what Martin Luther King said about racism being as toxic to the perpetrator as to the victim.

The Wilby in the Wilby Conspiracy is a Nelson Mandela like figure who is in exile in neighboring Botswana. He only enters the film at the very end and in a surprising way.

The Wilby Conspiracy other than that tacked on sex scene done for box office dollars is a great portrait of the last days of the apartheid society of South Africa. It should be seen for Nicol Williamson's portrayal alone.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Caine and Poitier playing the dozens while on the run!

8/10
Author: mike dewey from canton, ohio
16 August 2006

A fun politically charged, fast-paced action drama. No politically correct dialog here, as the principals give no quarter when the name calling and racial badgering ensues. A White man and a Black man are thrown together on a political twist of fate and have to overcome their mutual disdain for one another if either of them is to survive. Caine and Poitier, in my humble estimation, do a bang-up job of fulfilling the requirements of their respective roles. Neither widely known nor often mentioned, Prunella Gee does a nice job as Caine's sweetheart and Poitier's legal/political confidant, especially as it pertains to her keeping the peace between them so that they can achieve the task at hand.

What is also interesting is to see that even though Indian people and indigenous Blacks were similarly discriminated against in S. Africa (esp. during apartheid), there is still racial friction between those two groups. Not particularly earth-shattering news to many people, but a subject not often underscored in most modern cinematic fare.

If you like political melodrama with good plot development and plenty of action, you should like this one.

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Surprisingly tasty

7/10
Author: Michael Casagrande (casagrandem@prodigy.net) from Tampa
9 March 2002

I've seen many of the movies of this era. As remarked elsewhere, it is a fast-paced action film but has fetching little vignettes along the way that point out the characters' humanity.

Superb performances by Nicol Williamson and Michael Caine. Poitier plays his usual role to perfection. Many good supporting performances -Persis Khambatta is a revelation and there is really not a weak link in the cast. Not often remarked, this movie deserves a solid 7 out of 10. The Rutger Hauer sequence is worth the price of admission.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

good chase film

8/10
Author: kvanclief from Canada
8 February 2011

This is a real gem of a chase thriller.I think this film isn't well known.Oscar winners Michael Caine and Sidney Poitier are well matched together.Nicol Williamson is quite a scene stealer and a wonderful actor.Available from MGM.and also stars Persis Khambatta from "Star Trek original movie" and Rutger Hauer,known for "Blade Runner". This film reminded me of the film "Defiant Ones" 1958.Pairing Tony Curtis and Poitier together. Sidney Poitier won Oscar for Lillies in the field 1963. Michael Caine won supporting actor for Cider House Rules 1999. So watch this movie and see if you agree with me that it is a gem! If you liked this film you might watch Shoot to Kill 1988.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

An interesting star pairing in an equally interesting situation, marred slightly by a few things.

Author: Poseidon-3 from Cincinnati, OH
16 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Earlier in his career, Mr. Poitier made "The Defiant Ones" about a black man and a white man on the run together and "Something of Value" about the strife between Great Britain and its colonies in Africa. Here he takes part in a sort of cross between the two, a story about a South African rebel who is thrust together with a British playboy, both of whom have to fight for their survival on a 900 mile trek to Johannesburg. Having just been released from prison on prior rebellion-related charges, Poitier is immediately targeted and mistreated, causing Caine (the boyfriend of Poitier's attorney) to step in and help. Thanks to oppressive law enforcement officials, the pair must flee the area and attempt to escape the country entirely. There's more to the story, however, as British Major Williamson locates them, yet allows them to keep traveling, perhaps having a grander scheme in mind. When Caine and Poitier reach Johannesburg, they become embroiled in a plot to unearth some decade-long buried diamonds with the aid of Caine's girlfriend Gee, shifty Indian dentist Jaffrey and his attractive assistant Khambatta. The story continues to turn and develop, eventually involving Gee's estranged husband Hauer, until Williamson's intentions are finally made clear. Poitier is intense and committed but not without a hint of humor. He also plays a scrappier character than he often was permitted to play rather than the immaculately tailored and clean ones he frequently portrayed. Caine does an excellent job and has good chemistry with Poitier. He's given more sarcastic or otherwise funny lines to deliver and does so adeptly. His ne'er do well character begins to display some deeper sense of feeling as the film progresses. Gee is, at times, unbearable. Sporting an unflattering shaggy wig (in all but one scene) and overemphasizing her lines obnoxiously, she comes close to messing up the film several times. Fortunately, she has a few lower key scenes that help somewhat. Williamson is excellent and provides plenty of interest as well as menace. De Gooyer makes for a very nasty little sidekick. Jaffrey is amusing and sad all at once while Khambatta is sultry and surprisingly dangerous. Hauer, looking impossibly young and blonde, plays a perfect jerk. Possessing a decidedly blunt point of view, some viewers may find it unpalatable at times, but it remains fascinating nonetheless. Some of the broader comedy aspects might have been better left out or toned down as they sometimes spoil the tension. Some technical ineptitude (including a heavy reliance on questionable rear projection and a downright ridiculous use of speeding up the film) mars the production slightly. There is a wince-inducing sequence involving a power saw in a machine shop. Another impressive scene includes an entire section of a town working together to smuggle supplies onto a bus. The film is at its best when it focuses on the relationships between Poitier and Caine and that duo against Williamson. It falters a little when shoddy effects and the inappropriate acting of Gee take center stage. Filming took place in Kenya rather than in South Africa itself. Khambatta, a former Miss India, would soon appear (with shaved head) in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture."

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Fun with some substance

6/10
Author: Maziun from Poland
16 November 2013

This little movie is a combination of political thriller , comedy and adventure movie. Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine have really good chemistry together . It's a well working duo which has to overcome their differences to survive. The way how they begin to trust and care about each other is believable.

The story is simple and moves quite fast , which isn't usual for 70's movies. The movie is mostly entertainment with apartheid being an issue in the background. The people who are expecting something deep might be disappointed . Personally I think that this movie sends a clear anti-apartheid message without being preachy or sappy. There is also a reflection about human greed and sacrifice .

Watch out for Rutger Hauer in small episode of pilot Blane . I also have to compliment the performances of Prunella Gee , Saeed Jaffrey and Persis Khambatta . The movie is both funny and dramatic and there are some beautiful landscapes here.

I give it 6/10.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Too much plot, not enough story

4/10
Author: JasparLamarCrabb from Boston, MA
12 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Certainly any film set against the backdrop of South Africa's apartheid policy is grave, but this thriller is a bit too pat to really be recommended. Sidney Poitier is a recently released political prisoner who involves his lawyer (Prunella Gee) and her disinterested boyfriend (Michael Caine) in a plot to smuggle diamonds out of South Africa (to someone named Wilby). All three principles are terrific, but the script they're saddled with is at times too convoluted and at other times full of holes. It takes an inordinate of time to understand what's going on so the viewer ends up confused rather than intrigued. There are gaps in logic, both minor (how does Caine, without even looking for it, know the location of the side entrance to a building he's never been to?) and major (how does a dead man end up in Caine's trunk?) With Kenya subbing for South Africa the movies has some stunning photography and a great score by Stanley Myers. The supporting cast includes a young Rutger Hauer, Persis Khambatta and producer Helmut Dantine as a shifty prosecutor. Best of all is scenery chewer Nicol Williamson as the crafty cop trailing Poitier and Caine. Directed, blandly, by Ralph Nelson, whose wildly inconsistent output included the great LILIES OF THE FIELD, REQUIEM OF A HEAVEYWEIGHT and CHARLY as well as such oddities as EMBRYO and THE WRATH OF GOD.

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