Movie Review 2007 #86: The Man Who Would be King

The perfect pairing of Michael Caine and Sean Connery in the adaptation of the Kipling story, with Kipling himself as a minor character (portrayed by Christopher Plummer)


I wanted to watch something reliably entertaining after the disappointment of my previous movie experience, and so I turned back to this tale of two British msifits who bamboozle their way to power and tragedy. And like the previous times I have seen it, TMWBK delivers.
The story begins in late 19th century India, where Plummer’s Kipling meets two fellow masons, Daniel Dravot (Connery) and Peachy Carnehan (Caine), who, after Kipling rescues them from the folly of their latest scam, get information and study maps for their greatest adventure yet, a trip into wild “Kafiristan”. The last westerner to go in and come out alive and hale was Alexander the Great, 2 millenia ago.
“Anything a Greek can do, we can do.” declares Peachy, and so the two are off. With hazards both natural and man made, the pair make their way, with guns, into the barbaric land. At first content to use the guns to set themselves up as warlords, a fateful battle causes the populace to regard Dravot a God, the son of Sikander (Alexander). And so, an even bigger dodge and potential opportunity results for the pair…
Old fashioned Hollywood Epic is on full parade here. While the cinematography is excellent, why this movie works, exactly, is the chemistry between the two leads. This movie fails unless we believe in Carnehan and Dravot and their relationship. Caine and Connery deliver, in spades.
The only flaw I have is not with the movie itself, which doesn’t shy from the ending in the original story (I somehow suspect today that, if remade, the ending would be the first thing to go), but with the quality of the DVD. Its a poor copy, with the movie split on two sides of the disc for no good reason. This movie deserves a rich, new special edition, perhaps with commentary by the leads. I certainly would buy it.
In the meantime, though, if you want old fashioned action and adventure, with characters who are far more than cardboard cutouts, if you haven’t seen The Man Who Would Be King, you should rush out and do so.