Edward Dmytryk's THE CAINE MUTINY
A movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
This fictional WWII drama about a mutiny on a US Navy ship still packs quite a punch and includes a standout performance by Humphrey Bogart as the infamous Captain Queeg.
The movie is in three parts:
Captain Queeg takes over the CAINE, a dilapidated minesweeper, after years of his harrowing service in the Atlantic. We see his approach to discipline firsthand along with the increasing unease of the Caine’s officers as they chafe under his command and erratic behavior.
The typhoon where the Caine is near foundering and Queeg is paralyzed with indecision to the point where the Executive Officer (Van Johnson) relieves him of command.
The courtroom trial where senior officers are put on trial for mutiny with Jose Ferrer as the reluctant defense attorney.
Bogart absolutely nails the part of Queeg. If you have read the Herman Wouk novel on which this 1954 film is based you will understand what I mean. You will be especially impressed if your familiarity with Bogart is limited to CASABLANCA or his early “gangster movie” career. Queeg is a complex character. Bogart knocks this role out of the park. He deserved the 1955 Best Actor Oscar for the performance.
Almost everything else about the movie is first rate - acting, dialog, editing, and photography. Cooperation of the U.S. Navy is obvious throughout with frequent shots of actual ships at sea. The typhoon sequence involves some extremely good model work and sound effects that make the drama on the Caine’s bridge terrifying.
One can’t watch this film without addressing head on the question of what one does when one’s leader’s performance is questionable but one’s duty also is to follow regulations and what the law says about the chain of command.
The movie does not shirk from portraying this as a messy situation with no easy answers. Was the crew right to take over the Caine in the middle of a Typhoon? After all, they did save the ship from foundering and most likely sinking. But the context and backstory in which this takes place does not make the resolution cut and dried.
Review copyright (c) 2018 by Dennis D. McDonald