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The Cruel Sea
IMDB Rating: 7.7/10 from 2,866 votes
Release: 19 August 1953 (USA) /

The Cruel Sea

Genre: Drama, Foreign, History, War
Director: Charles Frend,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: At the start of World War II, Cmdr. Ericson is assigned to convoy escort HMS Compass Rose with inexperienced officers and men just out of training. The winter seas make life miserable enough, but the men must also harden themselves to rescuing survivors of U-Boat attacks, while seldom able to strike back. Traumatic events afloat and ashore create a warm bond between the skipper and his first officer. Atmospheric sea footage. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

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Critic Reviews

I first read this book when I was 14 (and had my father take it back from me when I had to ask "what's 'urinate' mean, dad?"). Monserrat is a master at the depiction of men at war - from his extraordinary technical knowledge to his ability to convey the fatigue, the cross feelings living in close quarters, the bitterness, the moments of triumph or relief.

This film does Monserrat justice. This movie is the opposite of the "boys' own adventure" sorts of movies. There are no striking heroics - just the very real feeling of people performing onerous often dangerous duties as well as they're able - which is heroic itself. The movie does not skimp on the danger either - the shocking losses of ships in convoys that the corvette "protects", the extreme difficulty of finding and sinking U-boats, almost gives one the feeling, "what's the point of convoys?" (Imagine all surgeons operating with an average 3% survival rate - well, 3% recovery is better than none - but imagine the wear on the surgeons).

The film is gritty, and just has the feel of the 1940s in its bones. The sounds, the movement, the look of cities and harbors, the clothes - it's as if one's uncles' tales have all come to life.

Jack Hawkins and Donald Sinden are wonderful - almost always (and necessarily in wartime) stiff upper lip. The movie's moral dramas (bearing upon decisions the captain must make) are wonderfully conceived and executed.

This is truly a superb movie - a great credit to all who worked on it - a memorial to many. It's a completely different - and superior - genre to such movies as Pearl Harbor. I even prefer it to its natural rival, In Which We Serve - good though the latter is.

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