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The Cruel Sea

Blu-ray Three Stars
You're probably thinking "here's another old war film" and you would be right, this is another old war film, but there's something very different about this film about war at sea made in 1953, for this is one of the more realistic portrayals of the war waged at sea that we've seen, and I don't mean realistic in the sense of gore and destruction, I do mean in the effect it has on people and how it can change them.

You do have to remember the year it was made and consider that, but then, and still now, it's a tougher and more personal portrayal, and the new release on Blu-ray has delivered it longer and more detailed than ever before.

Plot.pngTheCruelSea.jpgThe film follows the Captain and crew of a brand new ship heading out to war for the first time, the only experienced person on board being the Captain with the rest of the crew straight from their brief training and peacetime jobs such as car salesman or solicitor. They head out to sea and begin to come together, or fall apart, as a team, and slowly, through the rigors of life at sea and life at war, they become a crew. Following the Captain and First Officer we gain a brief glimpse at what life at sea at war did to people.

TheFilm.pngThe faces are recognisable from the outset with actors such as Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden, Stanley Baker and the surprise casting of Denholm Elliot all giving strong performances which are surprisingly restrained for an older film. It's another film that I expected to have much more over the top and luvee type performances more than anything because of its age, and yet it actually was much more restrained and internal than I expected. It's a powerful film that tells a hard story and touches on the effect that war has on individuals as we watch the two leads at different points in their lives being taken in very different directions by how they deal with their terrible experiences.

Still despite the performances being restrained and not overly acted, they do get a little over dramatic at times and the film does show its age during such scenes, but they are few and far between. The story is surprisingly tough delivering some harsh realities of war at sea and not over glorifying the characters or the war. There's nothing sugar coated about what it delivers and for the day it did play the harder and darker view of sea warfare, something that still holds strong today. There are surprises in the story too as that reality is projected through what happens to our characters, and I don't just mean emotionally.

It does a great job with the limitations of film of the day and when you hear more about the filming you realise that this could be viewed as quite an unusual production, especially if you consider similar films of modern day. When you hear some of the stories of how it was filmed from the interview on the Blu-ray you'll be surprised at some of the details of the filming.

Jack Hawkins gives a great performance as the Captain the best examples of which are when his character is beginning to feel the pressure and weight of the decisions he has made and what has happened to his men, as well as the relationship with his second in command Lockhart played by Donald Sinden. Their relationship isn't overly examined but is shown in a few small scenes, there isn't much to them but they are well played, bring across the point well and at a few points are rather touching.

Sinden is also good in his role, although his character takes a slightly different route to that of the Captain and feels slightly less dramatic his performance is none the less just as strong.

Despite the film being rather old the style of filming doesn't make you feel the age through the locations and sets and the digitally re-mastered picture does mean it looks really good on Blu-ray even if it still carries a slight grain to it. There are a few scenes where the picture is rather grainy, and this is where the film turns back to actual war footage, the grain here adds some reality and texture.

Audio.pngLPCM DTS MA Stereo
The audio is good but hasn't been hugely re-mastered for the Blu-ray release. We're not sitting with a brand new 5.1 soundtrack, but it has obviously been cleaned up and sharpened somewhat.

Extras.pngInterview with Donald Sinden
Interview with Donald Sinden
This is a charming and interesting interview with one of the leading actors of the film and he provides some interesting stories about the filming, revealing startling facts that all the on deck shooting was all done at sea, all apart from the sinking scene which was done in a tank and he provides more interesting and funny stories for. Some of what he says, like the shooting at sea and the firing of the gun, reveal the changes in filming between then and now.

Overall.pngThe Cruel Sea is a hugely engaging story that is surprisingly unsentimental about the view of war at sea, and indeed war in general. It doesn't suffer from some of the soft focus and overly emotional performances, writing and direction that we see in many other war films of the time, here we're getting as much of the reality as was possible at the time, and mainly in the characters and their changes.

It feels as though there's a lot more to be told from the book, but the film does have a lot to say and doesn't feel anywhere near its two hour length.

Well worth watching on Blu-ray, it's a classic that looks better than it ever has and really will capture you for the entire running time. It's just a shame there are so few extras, you can understand why but up against other feature packed Blu-ray discs it does lag a little behind.

UK IMDB Film Details
Buy from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
Buy or rent from LOVEFiLM



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