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21 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

A strong story with a great script, stylish and professional direction and roundly strong performances

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
4 August 2006

Bored sh*tless in his mansion with his well educated child and gorgeous wife, former SAS man Simon Mann shows interest when Rafael Acosta offers him a project. The "project" is to form a group of men from his old military units to take over Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea just before the 2004 election and install the exiled Severo Moto in place of the ruling President. Asking around his old army and college chums, Simon starts to pull together funding and manpower. However it is not the well oiled operation one would have hoped for and, unknown to him, the South African Intelligence Agency gets wind of it.

Written by John Fortune this film I hoped this film would have a good bite to it and a rather comic edge. Happily this is just what it does have as it presents a very British coup, based on the actions of bored public schoolboys most of whom seem the military action as either a way to make more money or one last hurrah or both. The material is very well written with a dramatic core to it that is engaging and enjoyable but with the constant touch of the absurd about it. In this way it is a roundly satisfying piece because it is amusing but not at the expense of the narrative – it is an impressive piece of writing from Fortune who captures the event really well. Jones' direction matches this professional approach really well and the film looks much better than the TVM label would suggest. It is also cleverly edited, using music and visual styling well to give the film a fresh feel and inject energy.

In the UK the reporting of the incident focused on the involvement of Mark Thatcher, son of the former UK Prime Minister, but the film wisely sticks with the main character of Simon Mann. In this role Jared Harris convinces as he goes from boredom to adventure. He is a strong lead role and an enjoyable one. His supporting cast are equally as good although Bathurst is understandably the least developed of the characters and gives the most obvious turn. Roberts is convincing and his character's fate is the most impacting. Newton is reasonably good as indeed are Cohu, Mannion, Masha, Dennis and others – in fact only Blakiston's turn as Margaret Thatcher is weak and a bit unnecessary.

Overall though this is an excellent little film that covers a fascinating true story that wasn't that well reported outside of the Thatcher connection. Fortune's script is strong and used very well by Jones to produce an engaging drama with a streak of absurdity running through it. Well worth a look.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A serio-comedy with some unanswered questions

Author: Philby-3 from Sydney, Australia
22 January 2008

Bob the Moo (see above) has summed up this TV movie on the abortive coup in 2004 in a small African country very well. Comical as it may have been, some of the participants, especially those in jail in Equatorial Guinea, are suffering greatly. There are also some unresolved questions about the possible complicity of the UK government. The film makers wisely stick to what is actually known about who organized and financed the "project" as it was called, but it is strongly suggested that MI6 knew in advance. The ringleader, Simon Mann (superbly played by Jared Harris), still languishing in a Zimbabwe prison awaiting extradition to Equatorial Guinea, may know, but so far he is not telling. Although we see a fair bit of Mark Thatcher (Robert Bathurst) it's clear his role was minor and he may well not have known about the proposed coup. I don't think his mother, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, impersonated here by Caroline Blakiston, knew, but she certainly supports the removal of "tin-pot dictators" by military means.

The most staggering thing is that Mann and his crew, experienced in military ways, planned the operation with almost no regard for security, with the result that the South African, Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe authorities were all able to act against them in a coordinated fashion. The fact that oil-rich Equatorial Guinea has one of Africa's most brutal and corrupt regimes didn't deter the South African authorities from tipping it off. (Zimbabwe is another story). Perhaps they would rather not have known, but once they did (and of course the troops involved were all ex-South African army personnel) the whistle had to be blown. With better security the "project" might have worked – Mann and co had the right experience and means for the job.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Very good and insightful almost-docudrama of a footnote in recent history

Author: Ivo Moelans from Belgium
5 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This made for TV movie tells the story of the bungled plot in 2004 to overthrow the regime of president/dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, a small African country where large reserves of oil were discovered in the 1970's. Under the leadership of ex-SAS officer Simon Mann, a friend of Mark Thatcher (son of former British prime minister Margareth Thacher) who, amongst others, helped finance the operation, a small group of mercenaries tries to occupy the capital and replace the president by a leading exiled politician, Severo Moto, head of the opposition Progress Party. From the very beginning the conspiracy is compromised. Financial backers can't keep their mouths shut, mercenaries are recruited too openly and weapons and transport are bought without any secrecy to speak of. Some of the conspirators are (possibly) double-dealers. The South African secret service gets wind of the operation and shares its information with other countries. Not surprisingly the coup attempt was thwarted and some 17 mercenaries in Equatorial Guinea and a further 70 mercenaries whose plane was stopped in Zimbabwe were arrested. Simon Mann was also arrested in Zimbabwe and was sentenced in 2005 to seven years, later reduced to four years, in prison. The movie tells the story in a factual and yet entertaining, even amusing way. We get to see how a bunch of rich and famous Englishman with more pluck than brains give it the old college try and bungle the whole operation from the word go. A very good and insightful almost-docudrama of a footnote in recent history.

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An Object Lesson in Hubris

Author: Winterble from Buenos Aires, Argentina
17 May 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Although quite obviously not a high-budget film, Coup certainly should give the willies to anyone contemplating political or revolutionary activity in Africa these days. The SAIS (South Africa Intelligence Service) is a worthy and, one hopes, much more principled successor to BOSS (Bureau of State Security) that was its predecessor in apartheid South Africa days.

It's hard to imagine which of the key players was the dumbest; besides money, the hooks were excitement, action, and reliving one's glory days. Simon Mann must truly have been nuts to forgo his comfortable (if not well-earned) existence, and many of us who are of his generation can only wonder why it was apparently so easy to give up his pleasant existence for such a risky thing.

Greed, of course, plays a big part in it, but as I indicate in the summary, good ol' hubris was really at the heart of it all. And to top it off, to paraphrase the SAIS agent, you really must have a huge amount of hubris flying around in your head to imagine taking on such a chore without taking into account the black players on the chessboard! Brilliant writing.

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