3 January 2012 | TheExpatriate700
Taut, Suspenseful Thriller
Juggernaut is a well done action / disaster thriller which combines some good performances with great direction and scripting. An extortionist calling himself Juggernaut has planted several bombs aboard the ocean liner Britannic and is threatening to sink the liner in heavy seas if he is not paid off. The film follows an official from the cruise company, a naval bomb defuser, and London police officials as they attempt to prevent a catastrophe.
What sets Juggernaut apart from a thousand other 'mad bomber' films is that to a large extent it approaches the threat from an official, even technical perspective. Rather than a maverick cop chasing the psychopath around the ship, we get highly suspenseful scenes of professionals trying to defuse bombs. The film plays up the difficulty of defusing a booby-trapped bomb, taking it beyond the film cliché of simply cutting the right wire. The heroes have to get through a variety of hidden snares within the devices before they even get to the wires. Indeed, the sub-plot involving the cruise official serves to remind us that this is not just a 'technical exercise,' that there really are lives at stake.
Furthermore, the film does not succumb to the temptation to overplay its villain or make him a flamboyant maniac. Despite his code name serving as the title of the film, Juggernaut does not figure that prominently in the plot. When he does turn up, the performance is quite understated, particularly when compared to the head of the bomb squad. (Only Richard Harris would think that downing a bottle of scotch is good preparation for defusing a bomb.) Indeed, one can argue that the bombs themselves serve as the primary antagonist of the film with their fiendish designs.
The acting in the film is quite good overall, even if the characters aren't always that well fleshed out. Richard Harris does a good job as the film's overall protagonist, lending him a sense of mordant humor that keeps him from becoming a stale action hero. Omar Sharif also does a good job as the ship's captain, even though his character is largely one note.
Juggernaut does have some weak points. At times, the investigation back in London is given short shrift, so that it is difficult to follow. Furthermore, there are one or two scenes contrived for dramatic effect that take away from the film's realism. In particular, one scene where a young child gets access to a restricted area of the ship strains credibility. Still, the film definitely stands as a minor classic in its genre.