There really isn’t a typical Richard Lester movie, but I tend to think of him as a comic filmmaker because of things like A Hard Days Night, Help!, The Mouse on the Moon, The Ritz, Royal Flash, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The films often had a very dark twist, as in How I Won the War and The Bedsitting Room. Even more serious ones, as in the incredibly great The Three/Four Musketeers had plenty of laughs. But then there were entries like Petulia and Robin and Marian. So I can’t say that Cuba is wildly different. But as in Juggernaut, his attempt to do a fashionable disaster film when those were all the rage, about a huge cruise ship with a dozen bombs aboard, he couldn’t help throwing in little twists of characterization that were far, far better than lumbering beasts like Airport. That is the case here, and probably why it was a flop. He just couldn’t stick to the template.
Sean Connery is a mercenary brought to Cuba to quell the civil uprising against the Batista regime. We all know how that came out, don’t we? Brooke Adams runs the family rum and cigar business with her ne’er-do-well husband, Chris Sarandon. Sean and Brooke have a past together. The story has been compared to Casablanca, while Bogey did the honorable thing at the end, Connery just has to leave with his mission a total failure. And I have to say it’s all such a downer it’s hard to like.
The best thing about it is the portrayal of the huge gap between the rich tourists and upper class Cubanos and most of the people. Some accused Lester of being pro-Castro. I don’t see it, but I do see why the Bearded One came to power. The people were tired of being brutalized and killed. As so often happens they just exchanged one dictator for another, but how were they to know? Millions of people voted for Trump in 2016 because they were tired of a government that didn’t seem to care about them. How could they have known? Well …actually they could have known if they had paid even a little attention, so it ain’t a very good parallel, is it?