Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Caine Mutiny

Directed by Edward Dmytryk.
1954. Not Rated, 125 minutes.
Humphrey Bogart
Fred MacMurray
Van Johnson
Robert Francis
Jose Ferrer
Lee Marvin
May Wynn
E. G. Marshall
Tom Tully
Warner Anderson

When Captain Queeg (Bogart) takes over the USS Caine during WWII, he finds his inherited crew mirrors his dilapidated ship, completely slack and barely, if at all, worthy of the United States Navy. However, it soon becomes apparent to them that their new captain may have spent a few too many days at sea. The question is do they muster enough evidence and gumption to relieve him of his duty before he gets them killed, without approval from further up the chain of command. If they do, what will the consequences be?

Those are intriguing questions and the movie tackles each as it transforms from a doomed-at-sea epic to a courtroom drama. Both portions are outstanding and keep you on the edge of your seat. The situations that arise aboard the Caine really capture the essence of a crew constantly walking on eggshells. In court, it’s a real question of whether these men who did what seems to be the right thing will become victim to the law.

There is one portion of the movie that doesn’t work for me. The romance between young Ensign Keith and his gal at home, May Wynn (herself) feels flat. It hints at an almost Oedipal relationship between he and his mother but never really becomes anything substantial. It feels shoved in so the movie doesn’t completely alienate female viewers. Yes, I realize the movie is based on a novel which included this part of the story, as well. However, if it were all left on the cutting room floor it wouldn’t change the movie one iota.

That said, TCM is still a true American classic. It achieves such status mostly on the back of one Humphrey Bogart. I’m one of those blasphemers who really isn’t impressed by Bogart. To me, he’s wildly overrated. Granted, he’s been in some great movies but I’ve never felt they were great because of him. In my eyes, he wasn’t the best thing about any of them. His acting largely seems to consist of holding the cigarette he’s smoking in one hand while having the other hand in his pocket and delivering his lines in something barely more than a monotone manner with a blank stare on his face. That is not the case, here. As the unstable captain, he’s simply dynamite. He commands the screen and is truly mesmerizing. For my money, it’s one of his best performances and worthy of the Best Actor nom he received.

If you’re a film buff, this is a must-see. It deserves its spot as one of the great cinematic achievements.

No comments:

Post a Comment