Foreign Legion Major Foster (Hackman), an American haunted by his memories of the recently-ended Great War, is assigned to protect a group of archaeologists at their dig. Foster's unit ... See full summary »
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Foreign Legion Major Foster (Hackman), an American haunted by his memories of the recently-ended Great War, is assigned to protect a group of archaeologists at their dig. Foster's unit includes the charming, thieving rascal Marco (Hill), who joined the Legion only to avoid prison. After long stretches portraying the boredom and hardship of day-to-day life in the Legion, Foster's command occupies a small village where the archaeologists believe they've found a burial site sacred to the Arabs. An Arab leader (Holm) uses this affront to unite the tribes in Jihad, and attacks the tiny Legion garrison at the dig. An epic battle follows, very reminiscent of the film "Zulu". Costumes, firearms, and props are all very authentic-looking, and show great attention to detail. Written by
Cameron Fairchild <email@example.com>
Selected by Quentin Tarantino for the First Quentin Tarantino Film Fest in Austin, Texas, 1996. See more »
The Legion uses French military equipment and customs. Yet in one scene, when the new recruits are awakened one morning, an American bugle call (reveille) is used. See more »
[Marco has cleverly found a way to get from the troop car to the first class train car]
What else can you do besides steal and climb like a monkey?
I read palms. I'm part gypsy.
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is this film a classic? It surely has certain elements that could make
it one. Catherine Deneuve at her best, at the very pinnacle of her
beauty; Max Von Sydow as an archeologist who convinces the French gov't to resume digging in ruins in morocco, in an area containing unruly and savage Berber tribes that have slaughtered all comers; Gene Hackman as the legionnaire captain who has to break his promise to those very tribes that they would never venture into the area again; the guy who played Jaws in James Bond as a Russian 'volunteer' to the legion, sporting a beard that any Taliban would be envious of; some unknown as Marco, a riviera jewel thief, also 'volunteered' into the legion and a cast of doomed conscripts.
The whole film plays out like a funeral procession. the captain
(Hackman) keeps spouting his bile at the gov't, the authorities, the academics, etc. who have condoned this suicide mission, knowing full well they are throwing away men's lives for nothing. He keeps raving in fact even as the Arab tribes are massing and charging toward them.
As in any classic French foreign legion film, the doomed legionnaires are holed up in the ruins of an old castle, hopelessly outnumbered with no escape. if the Arabs don't kill them, the desert will. If the desert
doesn't kill them, the legion will kill them as deserters. There is no
salvation. Only death with honor.
In fact, there is little suspense in the film, as everyone involved
considers the mission absolutely hopeless. And they are right: they
are all gunned down or hacked apart by the desert marauders. The director has a strange sense of cruelty, methodically showing them getting it, one by one.
It's a weird sort of film that relishes and wallows in pure
nihilism. One is left wondering, 'what was the point?'.
I guess that was the idea. I kept waiting for a Hollywood ending, a
speck of optimism on the horizon, a sudden miraculous twist, but as the
credits rolled to a sonorous drum beat i realized, 'Hmmm... this is it, I guess'.
The gloom and doom telegraphed from the very beginning
played out step by step with no surprises or hitches. Sort of a
strange exercise in film-making, if you ask me.
Didn't Gene Hackman comment on this baby, "March or Die: the audience marched in and this film died"?
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