Anthony's Film Review
The Caine Mutiny (1954)
A wartime drama and a character study, both made worthwhile by a legendary actor...
The Caine Mutiny was a movie I never heard of until a friend of mine, who is a devoted fan of older films and the Golden Age of Hollywood, mentioned it to me one day. As a film lover, I am open to pretty much any kind of movie. My friend explained that The Caine Mutiny is a psychological drama taking place on a naval ship in World War II. That got me interested. Plus, Humphrey Bogart is in it. Being familiar with Bogart mainly in association with films like The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep, I was curious about how this acting legend would do later in his career.
Let's begin with the story. Willie Keith (Robert Francis) is a naval officer who is assigned to the U.S.S. Caine, an old naval ship. He meets Lieutenant Steve Maryk (Van Johnson) and communications officer Lieutenant Tom Keefer (Fred MacMurray). The beginning of the film mainly serves to introduce the characters and life on the ship. There are also a few moments with Willie and his girlfriend May Wynn, but to be honest, the romance didn't seem to serve much purpose. It can enhance any war story, but somehow, I wasn't sure if it was necessary for this one in particular.
Soon, the captain of the Caine is relieved from duty and replaced by Philip Francis Queeg, played by Humphrey Bogart. Clearly, the actor has not lost his talent even after turning 50. Bogart plays a ship leader who may not initially appear overly arrogant, but it's hard to ignore his orders. At one point, Queeg says, "There's the right way, the wrong way, the Navy way, and my way. And if you do things my way, we'll get along." A rather memorable line. If you think that's good, here's another line by Queeg: "Aboard my ship, excellent performance is standard, standard performance is sub-standard, and sub-standard performance is not permitted to exist."
For a while, everyone follows Captain Queeg's orders because that is what naval officers are supposed to do. Over time, everyone becomes increasingly doubtful and concerned. They deal with a series of situations where Queeg appears too focused on the trees without seeing the whole forest. They involve a towline, a tucked-out shirt that violates the dress code, and (believe it or not) a quart of missing strawberries. Then the film gets into the first key scene. The Caine enters a terrible storm and Queeg's orders are defied for everyone's sake.
Afterwards, the film goes into the second key scene: a court martial. Overall, it's not the best sequence of legal drama I've ever seen on film, but it's still quite good. It's interesting to hear arguments by Lieutenant Commander Challee (E.G. Marshall) representing the prosecution and Lieutenant Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer) on the side of defense. It's also dramatic to see how Philip Queeg, accused of endangering the Caine as a result of mental instability, might walk out as the winner. The whole sequence is satisfying to watch.
The last thing I'll mention is the moral of the story, at least as I see it. One should never let egotism get in the way of anything, especially when it involves leading a group and certainly when a situation is critical. It's just not worth putting people at risk. That's why The Caine Mutiny is a good film. It has a story that teaches us all about good leadership, inside or outside the navy. That and the everlasting talent of Humphrey Bogart.
For more information about The Caine Mutiny, visit the Internet Movie Database.