Watch Farewell to the King
- 1 hr 55 min
In the midst of World War II, Captain Learoyd (Nick Nolte) is a tough and tenacious soldier who has been fighting the Japanese in the jungles of Borneo. After he is separated from his platoon, he stumbles upon a tribe of headhunters who take him in and treat his wounds. Surprisingly, he learns that he can communicate with them in their native tongue, and even more surprisingly, he is soon accepted as one of their own.
As Learoyd begins to acclimate to his new surroundings, he finds himself drawn to Dayak warrior woman, Morda (Marilyn Tokuda), who slowly becomes his partner in an ongoing battle for freedom against the Japanese occupiers. His newfound freedom is however interrupted by British officer, John Colby (Nigel Havers), who urges him to return to civilization and serve as a key ally in the war effort. Initially resistant, Learoyd eventually relents and returns to the war effort even though it meant a sad farewell to his new family.
What follows is an epic depiction of the clash between two vastly different cultures, as Learoyd seeks to balance his loyalties to the tribe that has given him a sense of belonging and purpose, and the military establishment that he owes his allegiance to.
At times, the action is frenetic, with Learoyd and Morda flitting through the jungle, dodging bullets and planting landmines in the paths of the enemy soldiers. At other times, Farewell to the King is moving and introspective, with Learoyd struggling to understand his place in a world where his sense of belonging comes with conflicting loyalties.
Director John Milius has created a masterpiece with Farewell to the King, a film that is both an action-packed war movie and a complex exploration of what it means to belong. The movie contrasts the brutality of war with the nobility of honor and the gentle ways of a different culture, beautifully intertwining both.
The expansive jungle setting is captured perfectly and the cinematography is among the best of its era, contributing to an unforgettable viewing experience that is visceral and contemplative. There are panoramic shots that take your breath away and close-ups that make you feel like you are right in the jungle with the characters.
The cast delivers performances of rare depth and nuance. Nick Nolte is simply stunning as Learoyd, imbuing his character with a world-weariness and emotional vulnerability that make his journey through the filmâs narrative all the more poignant. Marilyn Tokuda, who plays Morda, is equally impressive, bringing fire and spirit to a role that could easily have been reduced to the clichÃ© of a stoic and silent tribal woman.
Nigel Havers, who portrays John Colby, is superb in his own right, with just the right amount of smarmy charm that belies a deeper commitment to the cause. And Frank McRae, who plays Sergeant Tenga, deserves special mention for his portrayal of a loyal friend and fierce warrior in a movie that is loaded with larger than life characters.
The movie's pacing is slow but effective, allowing the story to unfold at a leisurely pace, while still maintaining the excitement and suspense expected of a war epic. The film's themes of loyalty, cultural conflicts, and the search for self-discovery are woven in seamlessly and never feel preachy.
Farewell to the King is a unique and memorable war movie that deserves to be more widely recognized. It is an impressive work of cinema, breathtaking and often moving, featuring some great performances and extraordinary cinematography. With a rich tapestry of culture and action, it is a timeless classic that should be watched time and time again.