Ealing breaks from its traditional light comedies to offer a serious, authentic reconstruction of the battle of the Atlantic, based on Nicholas Monsarrat’s bestseller. Production, despite its overlong running time, emerges as a picture of dramatic intensity.
Much of the original novel’s action has been telescoped and quite a few major incidents have been omitted. As the commentator explains, the heroes are the men, the heroines are the ships, and the villain is the cruel sea.
These three elements are put into focus via the activities of a corvette which puts to sea with only one experienced officer – the captain – aboard. The others are the normal wartime recruits from civilian life, including a freelance journalist, lawyer, bank clerk and second-hand car salesman. Their first operational duties land them into a storm, but subsequently they encounter enemy activity and are harassed by U-boats.
Notable thesping comes from Jack Hawkins, who plays the captain with requisite authority. Surrounding cast is well matched, with sterling work contributed by Donald Sinden, John Stratton, Denholm Elliot and Stanley Baker at the head of a handpicked cast. Charles Frend directs with a sure touch.
1953: Nomination: Best Screenplay