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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I found this film underrated both by critics and specially audience.I
mean,its the only film where you get the chance of seeing Gene Hackman and
Terence Hill sharing the screen,not to mention Catherine Deneuve as lovely
as always.Hackman's role is interesting and he never once fails in
it to life.Its touching,specially in the end where he dies.
Hill does his best part ever without a doubt.I was surprised to see him pull off such a good role.A fine supporting cast includes Max Von Sydow and Ian Holm,as well as giant Jack O'Halloran in a memorable role as the Russian soldier Ivan.Anyway,i think the audience failed to see the real value here,as it often happens.It is a story of the Legion and its soldiers,but not just that.It includes strong issues such as imperialism,religious fanatism and the harsh army discipline,with a good love story thrown in.I dont know what else can you possibly want?
A solid 8.
I watched this movie today for the first time after stumbling across it
on the IMDb a few weeks back.
I'm a big Gene Hackman fan and a war film fan so I didn't think I could go wrong purchasing this sight unseen.
Without detailing the plot too much, it is fair to say that this is standard Legionnaire in North Africa fare and not a lot different from Films like Beau Geste and the Van Damme Legionnaire film (which would seem to be a vastly inferior remake of this film).
The film starts at a slow pace. In some of the early bits the acting is a bit wooden and the film also gives the appearance of being made for TV (it gets much better).
Unfortunately the picture was a little bit grainy and I doubt it is a big enough film for any kind or restoration to ever be done on it.
Through reading the boards for this film it seems that there have been some cuts made to the Region 2 DVD and this may explain why the film seemed a bit slow to develop.
I was particularly impressed with the locations and sets used.
Hackman also started slowly but got better as the movie went along and he really hit his straps later in the film. Terence Hill was very good in a sort of role I haven't seen him in before.
The film takes the time to highlight the stereotypical harsh living conditions endured by the men in the Legion and also the strict discipline imposed on them, many of whom come from ill-disciplined backgrounds.
The injection of a love story into some war films (like Enemy at the Gates or Pearl Harbor) detracts from the overall quality of the film and seems to be done to create a wider audience appeal. In this film that is certainly not the case and the romance between Hill and Catherine Deneuve's characters seems to complement the rest of the film nicely.
There is only one real battle scene which comes towards the end of the film but it was worth the wait. Prior to this there are a couple of other tense scenes involving the Legionnaires and the Arabs.
The final battle can only be described as epic. It was one of the better large scale battle scenes I have seen in a movie (no CGI when this was made).
The film was not without some faults (I may be mistaken but my understanding has always been that while men of many nationalities serve in the Foreign Legion, the officers are all French) but it is certainly underrated.
Much better then some recent Hollywood fare we have been served up such as We Were Soldiers (also reviewed by me) and Windtalkers
I give it 7 out of 10.
Well worth seeing if you like a good war film.
MARCH OR DIE has one impressive cast: Gene Hackman, Terence Hill (in one
his rare movie that you can take seriously), Catherine Deneuve, Max von
Sydow, Ian Holm...
Great script that has everything well balanced: humor, action, suspense, drama. It will please those who like good war movies, those who like historical movies, and those who like just plain good movies!
This is the ultimate movie about one of the ultimate elite troop in history: the Légion Étrangère.
This is THE French Foreign Legion movie, mainly because there aren't
very many of them. Jean-Claude Van Damme starred in a sort of remake in
'98 ("Legionnaire"). This features a truly international cast. The lead
American is Gene Hackman, as the major commander of the outpost.
Terence Hill is best known for his "Trinity" character in spaghetti
western comedies from Italy. He plays a new recruit, an acrobatic thief
who quickly becomes an unofficial hero among the men. Von Sydow is the
Swedish member, who made his name in Ingmar Bergman films; he plays an
archaeologist here. Deneuve, as a visiting daughter of a deceased
associate of Von Sydow's, is the famous French actress. Ian Holm is
British, but plays the Arab leader. Also on hand is Jack O'Halloran,
ex-boxer, as a giant ex-bodyguard for the swept away Russian
aristocracy. He appeared in "Superman" the following year.
As most people know, the Legion was composed of men who no longer had a place anywhere else in the world. They're all on the run from something or someone, and it's spelled out here, more than once. The time is just after World War I; the place is Morocco. The picture doesn't skimp on detailing this atmosphere; there was obviously a lot of money well spent on getting it right, though Hackman always seems a bit out of place (I believe Legion commanders had to be French, but you can do much worse than Hackman). If anything, it dwells a bit too much on detail and the first hour is tedious. The pic still didn't explain for me the purpose of having the men trudge endlessly in the desert sands, except maybe to weed out weaklings. There's a touching subplot involving a sad sack legionnaire whom Hill is unable to save despite continual effort. Mostly, the story revolves around the hardship involved, accompanied by a required sadism on the part of commanders, to get by day to day in the Legion.
It all points to a thrilling battle in the final act, when the Arab leader sends his hordes against the vastly outnumbered legionnaires, who seem stuck in a 'fight to the last man' scenario. The plot has Hackman under orders to provide guard at an excavation site, giving Holm an excuse to unite the tribes in a bloody attack. It's eye-opening to hear the Arab leader speak of resisting all foreigners and realize nothing much has changed even as I type this. But the final battle is spectacular, reminiscent of "Zulu." Though outnumbered about 20 to 1, the Legion makes effective use of rapid-fire weapons. Photographed on a great location, there are some startling images of numerous bodies littering the sands. I acquired an R2 DVD, which is the best way of viewing this film at this point.
This movie *could* have been as epic a movie as, say, "Apocalypse Now,"
"Lawrence of Arabia," or "Platoon." Instead we have a colorful,
atmospheric period piece, set largely in the Moroccan desert, that
plays like a wealthier version of "The Siege of Firebase Gloria." Not
that that in itself serves to denigrate this movie. Not at all. Heck,
"The Siege of Firebase Gloria" is a pretty decent war pic in its own
right. It's just that I get this nagging feeling, that "March or Die,"
with a little extra input on production values, wider desert shots,
more background flashbacks, etc., *could* have been a much more
memorable, larger-than-life sort of picture.
But what "March or Die" lacks in the sheer epic expanse of other big-name war movies, it more than makes up for with carefully measured performances by the principal characters, not the least of which is that turned in by Gene Hackman, who plays a certain Major Foster - a cynical but nonetheless highly disciplined former American officer, booted from the "vaunted" army of America, who has found his military niche in the austere, almost mysterious world of the French Foreign Legion.
How exactly a Yank ends up in command of a Foreign Legion battalion leaves a little to the imagination - or at least prompts the viewer to make the necessary allowances for artistic license. True, the FFL was, and is, open to recruits from just about any country, but most of the officer ranks are usually reserved for the French. Some of the officers do in fact work their way up from the bottom, so maybe this explains Major Foster's leadership position.
In any case, I felt it was one of the better performances of Hackman's career. Though his Major Foster is an officer clearly under a lot of personal stress, with a lot of "ghosts in his closet," Hackman carefully avoids the temptation to imbue this man with excessive amounts of passion that I seem to associate with a Gene Hackman performance. And it works well in this movie, because he is *supposed* to be a man of discipline. In fact one of his more memorable lines in the movie is when he reminds a group of unruly recruits, on their way to joining up with the Legion, that "the Legion is the most disciplined army in the world."
The movie itself is a fairly engrossing mixture of military action and political intrigue - namely, certain powers in France saw fit to use Major Foster's Legion battalion as a sort of "protection squad" to help protect a vital archaeological dig in the Moroccan desert, on lands traditionally inhabited by various Arab tribes. Neither the Arab tribesmen, nor Major Foster himself, are really too keen on the prospect of foreigners coming in to usurp other peoples' wealth. But Major Foster, ever the military man in spite of creeping cynicism, does what he is told, or, as he coldly explains to El Krim, the leader of one of the militant tribes (nicely played, oddly enough, by British actor Ian Holm): "A soldier goes where he is sent."
A very interesting host of characters comes into play throughout the movie, including Max Von Sydow as the archaeologist intent on digging up the treasure in the desert - not only for the glory and coffers of France, but, we can assume, for his own personal aggrandizement.
The Legionnaires themselves are an odd and, at times, colorful lot, much as you'd expect from a disparate group of desperate lads, all seeking anonymity, adventure, escape, redemption, or whatever else it is they expect to find in the Foreign Legion: there is Marco, a slippery jewel thief who seems to con his way in and out of everyone's life, but nevertheless has a heart of gold (though, at times, you wonder if he didn't steal that gold in a heist); there is a tragically inept soldier known only as Top Hat, a former musician whose background and reasons for being in the Legion are never really explained; there is a hard-as-nails battalion officer, a certain Lt. Fontaine, who gives no mercy to the troops, and expects none in return - only discipline. There are assorted other nationalities represented in this odd mix of Legion troops, including a young British lad who meets a particularly unpleasant fate at the hands of the Arabs; a handful of ex-German soldiers, joining up after Germany's defeat in the recently-ended Great War; and also an expatriate Russian, named Ivan, who seems to represent some of the human global spillage caused by the Russian Revolution, just then occurring in his homeland. The Legion seems to be not only the best, but perhaps the only, place for him, and the rest of them, to call home.
Last but not least is beautiful Catherine Deneuve, in a minor role, playing a war-weary French widow, thrown into this Moroccan mix due to circumstances beyond her control. I really liked her appearance in this movie. Though she didn't have a particularly heavy part, I would not call her the obligatory female "fluff" - she did in fact add some balance and nuance to the story that, for me anyway, was really quite meaningful.
The movie ends with an epic battle scene reminiscent of other siege-type movies, where the onslaught of seemingly endless streams of enemy soldiers against a thinly-defended garrison IS the battle royale, the raison d'etre of the entire movie. The battle scene is well-done and ultimately poignant. In fact, the entire movie was well-done and poignant. It just seemed to be lacking those few extra points that snatched it from the jaws of greatness. Be that as it may, it is a great war movie worth seeing by any die-hard war movie fan. And if it prompts you to study further about the history of the French Foreign Legion, as it did me, then, so much the better.
Dick Richards's 'March or Die' is an interesting film set in Morocco during the French colonization. It nicely entangles the war drama and the love triangle. As the captain, we see a ruthless William but his feelings for Simone show a more human side. Marco is the clever thief and a skilled smooth talker with a good heart but he too has a vulnerable side. Simone is perhaps the most complex of characters as she is ambivalent concerning William and in love with Marco though she cannot bring herself to say it. The main characters are quite well fleshed out. The pacing is slow at times. The love sequences are well executed and it is very well underplayed. There is no sugar syrupy moment. The cinematography is okay. A wonderful Gene Hackman is both hateful and sympathetic. Terence Hill performs very naturally. Max Von Sydow is good but Ian Holm is unintentionally funny and it looks as if he's mocking a Moroccan tribes leader rather than playing it. A radiant Catherine Deneuve is sublime. Gosh, she looks so beautiful! The rest of the cast do well. The movie sort of has a dated feel to it but 'March or Die' is good enough watch for a Thursday night.
This movie was a very good effort, full of great detail and authentic props. Gene Hackman is the leader of this group of men in the French foreign legion assigned to protect men that are digging up artifacts in Morocco. The natives aren't to happy with this and in the end one of the greater combat scenes on film unfolds.If you like seeing good battles and fights against arabs in the desert, you'll like this one.
This is a very unusual film in some ways, and very interesting. Gene Hackman is good, and Terence Hill is excellent in a different part for him. Hill almost seems to be acting as Steve Mcqueen. Whatever his technique, its effective. There is one thing that sets this film apart from every other movie out there, it has one of the all time great battles. Yes, it has to be one of the best ever filmed, a thing of true beauty. Violent, gritty, and very realistic. You can feel the desperation as the legionaires frantically play out their own version of Custer's Last Stand. Truthfully, the big climatic battle scene could stand alone as a good film. If you like Hackman or Hill/Mcqueen don't miss this one. Papillion joins the Foreign Legion...very cool!!!!! Loved it
Immediately after the Great War 1914-18 Major Foster an American born
officer in the French Foreign Legion . A disillusioned man who has seen
more than enough of the horrors of war , Foster looks forward to more
peaceful times only to hear of a spreading insurrection led by El Krim
, a Beeber warlord who wants to liberate Morroco from French rule and
Foster is sent to put down the insurrection
This is an early production from Jerry Bruckheimer who in the 1980s went on to be the most successful commercial film producer in Hollywood . His films included BEVERLEY HILLS COP , FLASHDANCE and TOP GUN . His films were rarely a hit with critics but what he was very good at was mixing aspects to gain maximum publicity for movies and fill multiplexes . Who can forget Eddie Murphy driving along LA with The Heat Is On blasting out in the foreground or or boys and girls flocking to the cinema in equal numbers to see Tom Cruise fall in love and shoot down enemy jets after which the audience would buy the official soundtrack album . Studios are only interested in profit margins and if a film makes a ton of money then who cares if it didn't win an Oscar ? You have to admit Bruckheimer was always excellent at whta he did
MARCH OR DIE shows early signs at what the producer was trying to achieve - make a film that would appeal to the action adventure market while still appealing to critics . It's interesting during this early period of his career Bruckheimer still might have wanted to win an Oscar for Best Film . THE CULPEPPER CATTLE CO. and FAREWELL MY LOVELY both directed by Dick Richards are two very impressive films from The New Hollywood period and you can see in this film a mix of character exploration and big battle action sequences
The problem is that it doesn't quite come off . You can see Gene Hackman, Major Foster as a tortured man with ghosts from the past realising the only way to lay his demons to rest is via Catherine Deneuve's Mme Picard but the film concentrate too much on Terence Hill's Marco to make this possible . Hill effectively plays the comic acrobatic character which he was best known for in the Italian Westerns alongside Bud Spencer and Marco - unlike Foster - never comes across as a real life character . Likewise the rest of the characters who join the Legion are entirely one dimensional clichés
Two things that do work is firstly El Krim the noble but superstitious leader . In 1977 the average Westerner would have little reaction to the word " Muslim " one way or another . Certainly El Krim is the villain of the story but he's written and played by Iah Holm as someone who fears progress rather than someone who just wants to slaughter Infidels . You wouldn't get a Muslim baddie like this in a movie nowadays . Secondly the long awaited battle sequence when it does come certainly doesn't disappoint
In summary MARCH OR DIE is a historical epic that that tries to appeal to everyone at the same time while never consistently appealing to anyone . That said is rather impressive in parts but you do feel slightly upset that the movies can't sustain it over the whole course of the movie and it does contain a lot of dross
March Or Die, the grim slogan of the French Foreign Legion is the title
of this film starring Gene Hackman as an American with the Legion in
World War I. The time is post the first World War and the Legion is now
returning to colonial policing duty in the various French colonies of
Where during their absence the natives of Islamic persuasion have become quite restless and they've found themselves a leader in Ian Holm playing the real Abdel Krim. Krim is looking for something to unite the various tribes under his banner and he's found a cause in an archaeological expedition headed by Max Von Sydow that is being accompanied by Hackman and his troops on their return to Morocco.
In real life Krim was quite the charismatic leader and a warrior as opposed to a terrorist. His exploits were front page news around the world and a caricature of him is the basis for the operetta The Desert Song by Sigmund Romberg.
Von Sydow wants to dig up some precious relics and the gold contained therein for the French treasury. That's why he's getting Legion protection. Hackman is of mixed feelings as he's seen too much of war recently on the western front.
March Or Die is a fine film and a fitting tribute to the Legion who though made of the riffraff of the world has a combat record second to none. These guys know they're society's dregs and there's plenty more where they came from. So straggling is not encouraged.
Hackman, Von Sydow and Holm fill their roles out well. And there are two other principal parts, Catherine Deneuve as a widow financing the Von Sydow expedition and Terrence Hill taking a break from spaghetti westerns playing a jewel thief who gets kind of hammerlocked into joining the Legion in Paris.
The battle scenes and other scenes depicting life in the Legion weren't staged any better in the many incarnations of Beau Geste. March Or Die will be the ultimate Foreign Legion film.
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