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Richard Widmark plays a hardened cold-warrior and captain of the American destroyer USS Bedford. Sidney Poitier is a reporter given permission to interview the captain during a routine patrol. Poitier gets more than he bargained for when the Bedford discovers a Soviet sub in the depths and the captain begins a relentless pursuit, pushing his crew to the breaking point. This one's grim tension to the end. Written by
KC Hunt <email@example.com>
The name of the Bedford's captain, "Eric Finlander" (played by Richard Widmark) is an obvious reference to the nation of Finland, which has a long and troubled history with its much larger neighbor to its east, the USSR/Russia. Finland was actually part of Russia for more than a century and as an independent nation fought Russia in the Winter War and the Continuation War, which together cost Finland 10 percent of its population and in which Russia's war dead totaled more than 300,000. See more »
During one of the final scenes, Sonar operator Queffle arrives on the ship's bridge in a state of shock and exhaustion. The medical officer is called to examine him. The doctor quickly checks Queffle's eyeballs, apparently to view the condition of his pupils. But he performs this exam with Queffle's eyeglasses still in place. The glasses would have distorted the doctors view of the pupils somewhat, possibly resulting in an incorrect diagnosis. See more »
A simply wonderful, chilling film that doesn't even seem that dated
The film contains one (or more) of the great character studies of its period--and indeed, is one of the few films that can sustain itself principally on character interaction, irrespective of plot (and the plot itself builds steady tension, a la Hunt for Red October). The pacing is brilliant, the acting is top-shelf, the claustrophobic shipboard mood is electrifying, the escalating, multi-tiered sense of confrontation between the key characters is riveting, and the payoff--though admittedly predictable, by the time you get there--is effective and unnerving nevertheless, especially if one is able to toggle back to the Cold War mentality that birthed this film.
I too was a bit put off by the studied and self-conscious Widmark reactions at two or three points in the film--the tactic becomes a well to which Widmark/Lumet go back at least twice too often (the last time, I found myself almost wanting to scream, "We GET it!"). But that's a very small price to pay for the overall cinematic genius (not too strong a word) of this movie. The script alone--in particular the climactic riposte Portman delivers unto the increasingly pathological Widmark towards the end of the film--is a masterwork rivaled by few other films of the era (or any era, for that matter). If you've seen the film, you know the line to which I'm referring. If you haven't seen the film, do yourself a favor and rectify that shortcoming.
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