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Defiant's crew is part of a fleet-wide movement to present a petition of grievances to the Admiralty. Violence must be no part of it. The continual sadism of Defiant's first officer makes this difficult, and when the captain is disabled, the chance for violence increases. Written by
Few films have tried to capture the era of Horatio Hornblower, and even fewer do it as well as this one. It's an extremely well-made movie, though a bit difficult to classify. Traditionally, in a sea adventure, the dashing, sexy leader is the hero; in this case, he's the villain (brilliantly played by Dirk Bogarde, who normally plays more sensitive chaps). The good guy turns out to be a very UNdashing and flawed, but compassionate Captain.
I think Alec Guinness is the only actor who can portray a character who is colorless yet also make him sympathetic. Perhaps the World War II era (with its emphasis on teamwork, its glorification of the average G.I., and its near-worship of able, but dull, leaders like Omar Bradley) may have influenced it, because the movie strongly emphasizes the worth of the common man, especially as personified by Anthony Quayle's character.
It's an offbeat movie: part sea adventure, part character drama, part historical epic. Critics might say it's not satisfactory in any of these areas, but those of us who love it recognize how special and even unique it is. Now that Columbia has finally released on DVD a letter-boxed version one can fully appreciate its worth, not only for the sea battle scenes, but also the many two-shots of Guinness and Bogarde interacting (or, more often, snarling) at each other.
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