“A captain’s job is a lonely one; he’s easily misunderstood.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that the “picture seems more concerned not to hurt the image of the Navy than to condemn Queeg, or to probe the military mentality and suggest that his phobias are not rare among military leaders.” He further adds that “the direction by Edward Dmytryk is stagy — one never feels that the men are actually on a ship in mid-ocean.”
I disagree with Peary’s sentiments. While the studio-mandated inclusion of an insipid romance between Francis and his singer-girlfriend (May Wynn) is an annoying waste of screentime:
… the rest of the storyline plays out in an engaging and suspenseful fashion. MacMurray gets to play one of his anti-nice-guy roles as an aspiring novelist who means well with his armchair analysis of Queeg, but ends up (arguably) causing harm:
… while Johnson is solid as an uneducated but savvy officer, and Jose Ferrer is nicely cast as a lawyer who openly wishes he were defending someone other than Johnson and Francis, but steps up to the task.
However, it’s Bogart’s Oscar-nominated performance which really holds one’s attention, especially during the riveting final courthouse sequence.
Bogart’s Queeg is a complicated character, as are the others around him — and I appreciate the culminating sequence in which the courtroom verdict is complexified even a bit further. By the end of this film, we definitely understand that leading is hard, and that knowing what to do under extraordinary circumstances is rarely straightforward.
Note: Watch for former-Marine Lee Marvin in a small role as a lieutenant nicknamed “Meatball”:
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments: