9 January 2018 | rmax304823
Take Her Down.
Cliff Robertson skippers a submarine in the South Pacific in 1942 during and after the Battle of the Coral Sea, a slug fest that lost the US more ships than the Japanese but prevented their landing on New Guinea, just across the Torrest Straits from Australia. Subs played no important part in the battle and the American forces had little idea of what they were doing because this was their first real engagement since Pearl Harbor.
It begins with an action scene, Robertson's boat being attacked by enemy aircraft while rescuing some downed flyers. That scene is okay. Then, below decks, the movie begins to macerate. There is always banter among enlisted men in these war movies. It may be about the meaning of FUBAR, as in "Saving Private Ryan", or about the delicate strucure of an ordinary leaf, as in "A Walk in the Sun." Sometimes it's amusing. Here it begins with a silly argument between Bates and the man he thinks stole his chewing gum. The reason for the theft is never explained, nor is the hole in the pants of the thief. It's markedly pointless. When the Exec peers through the scope and sees a Japanese carrier, he exclaims, "Sweet sufferin' sukiyaki." Robertson: "You can say that again." "Sweet sufferin' sukiyaki." Not a lot of effort has gone into the script, but that's not a reflection on Robertson, who delivers his usual solid performance, though some might say stolid.
Sent on a top secret mission about a third of the way through, the script becomes untethered and changes to a Japanese POW camp, one of those camps with a civilized commander who has spent time in America and admires the country but who feels an overwhelming duty to discharge his military obligations. Well, it worked in "The Bridge On the River Kwai." The strenuous work in the prison camp is lightened somewhat by the presence of a pretty blond nurse, who has no facilities to cope with the pneumonia contracted by the executive officer.
Also, living the with Japanese occupiers of the island is the attractive Gia Scala who has declared herself "neutral." But Robertson is disincline to toy with her. His intention is to escape from the island (the size of Manhattan and surrounded by five hundred miles of ocean) and he asks Scala for weapons. "I couldn't possibly do that. Perhaps some knife blades." With barely a glance at her, Robertson snaps, "Get 'em." He needs her to get the knife blades so they can try to escape. She does and they do, but escape is no easy matter. There are casualties. ("Sorry, Peg. I'm afraid I can't make it. You'll have to go on without me.")
The title of the film sounds like an epic along the lines of "Saving Private Ryan" or "The Longest Day." It's not. The battle of the Coral Sea lasts about five minutes at the very end and is largely cobbled together from familiar newsreel footage or miniatures from earlier movies like "Air Force", "Destination Tokyo," and "Gung Ho." If you intend to watch it, don't do it for a lesson in history.