A great cast was assembled here for this film: Richard Burton, Roger Moore, and Richard Harris certainly have all done better movies in their day, but it was their skills which made The Wild Geese enjoyable. Of the three, I think Harris comes off as the most sympathetic character; as his role is certainly the most fleshed out, his scenes with his young son are very poignant; and his talk with Faulkner (Burton) expressing his concerns the night before the mission show his fears and worries as not only a person, but as a father.
Richard Burton's Falkner is a mercenary who is being offered a contract by millionaire industrialist Stewart Granger. He must assemble, train and equip a group of mercenaries to rescue Julius Limbani (Winston Ntshona), a peaceful, well-loved African leader who has been deposed in a military coup. Burton does the job, but when the job is finished he and his mercenaries find getting out of Africa a whole lot more than they bargained for.
Roger Moore's Sean Finn is an enjoyable rogue, and adds a touch of humour to offset Burton's tough-guy leader role and Harris' over-thinking planner with a fondness for the 'underdog'.
Of course action adventure is old hat for Roger Moore. He was in his prime as James Bond when The Wild Geese was done. But Moore shows he can be quite serious here. None of the tongue in cheek deadpan that characterizes a Bond film.
The scenes dealing with the recruiting and training of the mercenaries come straight out of John Ford. So are the various types among the soldiers. Even the ones with the smallest of speaking parts are done so well, you can almost imagine their history with the unit as well as what they are like as men, as soldiers, as comrades.
I really enjoyed Kenneth Griffith's portrayal of the openly gay Medical Orderly Arthur Witty. Yes he's certainly stereotypical, but the point is he's accepted by the men who really don't care about his sexual orientation when in a fight and the going gets rough. Additionally, he turns out to be quite the John Wayne - badd-ass type hero in the end when confronted by the Zimbas and is alone covering his comrades escape.
The Wild Geese turned out to be very popular in its day, and Burton was going to do a sequel: Wild Geese II when he died in 1983. It might have been an interesting film had he done it since it would have paired him with Sir Laurence Olivier in that one.
In the end The Wild Geese is a great action/adventure film to be certain, but it's also about something much more - its about loyalty, tradition, and camaraderie. These men may fight for money, but they are fanatically loyal to the unit created and to each other.
As a final note worth mentioning, Joan Armatrading's title song: The Flight of the Wild Geese, is a great piece of work. Her lyrics are poignant, and the music is moving. When paired visually with the opening credits, it creates quite a stir of emotions, and the soundtrack to this movie is well worth the cost if you can find it.