This is a made for TV dramatization of a true event in history, specifically the story of the Confederate efforts to develop a submersible boat during the civil war. The story opens in Charleston S.C. during the seize and naval blockade of that city by Federal forces. The Confederates were attempting to develop a submarine with a torpedo to be used as a weapon to break the blockade. This is the story of the successes and failures of that effort and follows the efforts of the crew in the development of the submarine (made from a converted boiler) and its ultimate deployment into battle.
The story is a fascinating piece of history; an event that clearly changed the course of naval warfare. Director John Gray did a good job in his portrayal of civil war Charleston during the seize, with citizens attempting to cope and go about the business of day to day living despite the daily bombardment. The scenes inside the boat were particularly well done, giving the viewer a good sense of the claustrophobic quarters in which they had to operate.
Unfortunately, the selection of Armand Assante for the lead character, Lt. Dixon was a mistake. Assante, the consummate tough guy, can be a powerful actor when placed in a suitable role for his skills like Gotti'. But he does not have much range outside that type. In this film he was brittle in his portrayal, playing this role in typical tough guy fashion when the character required more subtlety and complexity. Also, his attempt at a southern accent was abysmal. No matter how he tried, he always sounded like a New York gangster.
Donald Sutherland was good as General Beauregard, but it was a minor role. The bright spot among the cast was Sebastian Roche who played Collins, the tempestuous Irishman. His cockiness and false bravado belied a vulnerable and frightened soul and he played it perfectly. His portrayal of panic during an oxygen deprivation drill was riveting.
I gave this film an 8, despite the miscasting of Assante. It was an entertaining drama with plenty of meat to keep most viewers interested and engaged.
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