-This unavoidably compelling naval drama, based on Herman Wouk's 1951 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, is a classic mutiny story construct - first-half sea-voyage conflict, second-half courtroom drama - that inevitably surprises with its ambiguous lack of answers and questionable motives.
The film, apparently at a quicker gape than the novel, tells of the mutinous acts on board the USS Caine in the Pacific, in which a small party of officers, led by Lieutenant Steve Maryk (Van Johnson), took over the ship from the highly enigmatic Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart).
Like the classic (and innumerably filmed) Mutiny on the Bounty, the film discusses the ethics and morals behind the mutiny at sea and what is or isn't considered a treasonous act, though to its credit it doesn't blatantly vilify Bogart's Queeg, nor does it condone the acts of the mutinous party.
The majority of the cast is spot-on, with Bogart's confused, paranoid Queeg toeing the line between outright lunacy and just isolated neuroticism. Fred MacMurray turns in perhaps the most tricky role as the cowardly Lieutenant Tom Keefer.
Troublingly for this film adaptation, the story is framed around Ensign Willie Kieth (Robert Francis), a straight-laced, clean-cut Princeton boy whose brief service record and inexperience works against him as an officer on-board the Caine. Francis plays him like a shell-shocked bore and briefly (not not extensively) the film threatens to take on his demeanor. [B-]
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