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James Burke, after distinguishing himself as a midshipman in the British merchant marine, rapidly rises to the rank of executive officer, second in command of a ship. A broken foot necessitates that he be put ashore to heal. After his recovery, the very proud Jim - his pride rooted in his competence, which had made him a highly respected and admired naval officer - signs on as the executive officer of the Patna, a rusty tub manned by a third-rate crew overseen by a barbarous captain, that is transporting a group of Moslem pilgrims to Mecca. During a severe storm that causes the unseaworthy ship to founder, Jim abandons ship with the rest of the white crew without even lowering the other lifeboat for the passengers. The fleeing crew are prepared to swear they saw the Patna sink with all its passengers; however, in what Jim believes is a cosmic joke upon himself, it is revealed when they get into port on their lifeboat that the Patma did not sink but had been salvaged by a French vessel... Written by
Jon C. Hopwood
Richard Brooks continued his flirtation with the great works of literature with this, you may think, unnecessarily lavish production of Joseph Conrad's novel which surely cried out for a more metaphysical treatment. What Brooks gives us isn't so much a tale of redemption as a lush adventure with a blue eyed blonde hero in exotic locations indulging in a load of derring-do.
As Lord Jim, Peter O'Toole reprises his role as Lawerence but this time round, since he has only an idea to work with, his performances comes across as moribund and dull. The film has a large, starry cast but Brooks' way with actors seems to have deserted him, except in the case of James Mason, who is the only actor to capture the Conrad spirit. Unfortunately he doesn't come into the picture until two-thirds of the way through by which time you have lost all interest in Jim and his exploits.
It is certainly a handsome epic, beautifully shot by Freddie Young, but it also overlong and a bit prosaic, something of the kiss of death for a film of this kind.
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