March 19, 2013
Cuba isn't bad. Director Richard Lester has a clever sense of humor, which keeps this from being self-serious. It's sort of a modern-day Casablanca, except that nobody saw it in 1979 and nobody remembers it now. And while it is about 20 minutes too long, Cuba is generally a fascinating (perhaps unreliable) piece of quasi-historical filmmaking. What's perhaps most historically accurate isn't its take on the Castro revolution, but its depiction of American culture's pervasiveness in Cuba. Everywhere Lester's camera turns we see Cubans inundated with Western capitalist ideals: from the grandson of one of the generals playing Monopoly with his grandfather, to the "Mr. Clean" commercial playing on the television set while a seemingly unresponsive elderly woman stares at it, to the General watching a private screening of Horror of Dracula (a British film, but it qualifies as a Western influence nonetheless).
Brooke Adams, ever the photogenic actress, radiates in Cuba. She's a stunning beauty, and her dark hair makes the New York-born actress believably Latina (maybe not Cuban, necessarily) even when her accent falters periodically. The chemistry between Connery and Adams seems off, but there's something oddly fitting about it at the same time: it's a jaded, unworkable romance for the jaded soldier. Alex is spoiled and selfish but also sympathetic. And Dapes is stubborn but not unfeeling.
And a cast of amusing supporting characters populates Lester's Havana: Chris Sarandon as Alex's arrogant beauty of a husband, Hector Elizondo as one of Batista's men, hired to accompany Dapes (he begins something of an amiable sidekick), Jack Weston as a sleazy American investor, Martin Balsam as General Bello, Lonette McKee as Sarandon's girl on the side, Danny De La Paz as her Castro-infatuated younger brother, who's a pawn of the revolutionaries, and Walter Gotell. Written by Charles Wood. Filmed--convincingly--in Spain. 122 min. ★★½