12 April 2009 | MartinHafer
One of the best naval films
I am quite surprised that this film only has a rather ordinary score of 7.1 at this time, as it's one of the best naval films I have seen--and perhaps the best one about this period in history. Exceptionally good acting and writing make this a definite must-see.
The story itself is based very, very loosely upon various mutinies and strikes that occurred in 1797 aboard British war ships. In the film, crew members were pushed to do this desperate act due to their sadistic treatment at the hands of some of the officers (in particular, Dirk Bogarde's character). However, in reality, the strikes and mutinies occurred for far less noble reasons--such as for higher pay or to spread the spirit of the French Revolution to the British navy. Still, despite this discrepancy, the film is top entertainment.
The film begins with the Captain (Alec Guinness) preparing to return to sea with his very young son on board his first assignment. While Guinness seems like a decent sort of man, you immediately are taken aback by the violent press gangs that secure replacement crew members by kidnapping hapless Brits. In addition, once the cruise begins, you can't help but hate Bogarde as the second in command. While he is competent, he's also a sadist and power-hungry. Again and again, he ignores the Captain's orders and abuses the crew--pushing the men to the breaking point. While the Captain is no wimp, Bogarde finds ways to assert himself without doing enough to merit his arrest--at least until late in the film.
The acting by Guinness and Bogarde is awfully good and makes the film. Bogarde does a great job of playing an evil bully, though the most kudos should go to Guinness, as his character has a lot of depth--making this one of his better film roles. However, this is no surprise as he was a wonderful actor and had an astounding skill at immersing himself into a very wide range of characters--and doing it in a very believable and understated way. Interestingly enough, this film was very quickly made (so that Guinness could get back to filming LAWRENCE OF ARABIA) but you sure can't tell that from his performance. In addition, the supporting actors really did an excellent job and I have no real complaints about anything in the film--a rarity for a picky guy like me.
Exceptional throughout and quite gripping--this film is tough not to like and will keep you on the edge of your seats.