Sean Connery's name will always will be associated with James Bond. That's nothing for him to be ashamed of, it's his signature role. However, I consider this to be his best film. His performance is so outstanding that we can look at him and forget James Bond for two hours. It's a film that shows us how magnificent he is as an actor. Both he and Michael Caine have charisma as likeable rogues, but it's Sean Connery who wins our heart.
Peachy Carnehan (Michael Caine) and Danny Dravot (Sean Connery) are two ex-soldiers who have remained in India after leaving the British army. It's not stated why they left, but it's possible it was a dishonourable discharge because of their antics. They don't want to return to England because they face a life of poverty on their return. Isn't that what I was talking about in my review of "Berlin Falling"? They have an extravagant idea on how they can become rich. They want to conquer a country, become kings, then plunder the country's riches and take everything back home with them. The country can't be India, of course. Danny and Peaches are patriotic and would never try to take a country away from their beloved Queen Victoria. In books they discover an uncharted country called Kafiristan, which lies in the north of today's Afghanistan. Two men against a whole country might sound like overwhelming odds, but they're British!
The first 20 minutes of the film present Freemasonry as an almost comical institution, in which brothers hold together however immoral they may be. Rudyard Kipling, who wrote the book on which the film is based, was a Freemason himself and knew what he was talking about. He presents the Freemasons in a light-hearted way, but he was a dedicated Freemason, so it's not meant as an attack. He only wanted to point out the amusing situations that could arise in the daily life of Freemasons. I understand that the original novel contains much more about the Freemasons than has been included in the film. The omissions might put things in a different light.
"The man who would be king" is an epic, not just visually, but in its moral teachings. The film has similarities with ancient tragedies, except that the fates can't be blamed. In this film the main characters, especially Sean Connery as Danny, bring the disaster upon themselves. The sins of Greed and Pride can't be left unpunished. Then there's the sin of Blasphemy, a man pretending to be a God, which is belittled by Danny's excuses that it's not really blasphemy if you only pretend to be a false God. There's also the sin of Lust, when Danny puts everything he has at risk in order to get a woman.
This is a well-known classic, made 40 years ago in 1975, but if you're one of the few people who hasn't yet seen it you ought to. It has a well deserved place in my list of 30 films to watch before you die.
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The film has been released on Blu-ray in America and Germany, but only on DVD in England. If you live in England you can import the Blu-ray from either country. They can both be watched without problems. I owned the film on DVD before buying it on Blu-ray. The remastered version is superior to the DVD, but uneven. All scenes with facial close-ups are much better on Blu-ray, but the landscapes haven't been treated with the same loving care and sometimes show signs of dirt.