Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
David Lean was hired by Noel Coward to assist him on this production meant to bolster England’s morale in preparation for the worst of the war, but reports indicate that Coward left all directorial duties to the future Oscar winner after a few weeks (the results show it to be Lean’s film all the way). It centres around the attack on a British destroyer that leaves a number of its crew floating in the ocean in a dinghy awaiting rescue, and while doing so, they keep themselves warm by flashing back to their friends and family and the life that led them into battle. Coward plays the captain, quite convincingly, who is longing to go home to his loving wife (Celia Johnson in her film debut) and two children (one of whom is played by Daniel Massey), ruminating on them between memories of his ship being damaged during a battle in Norway. John Mills is the ordinary seaman who recalls meeting on a train, charming her and quickly getting married, leaving her in the care of the wife of Chief Petty Officer once she learns she has a baby coming along. The military maneuvers are recreated with as much authenticity as the homefront scenes are performed with warmth, this is an expertly written and beautifully shot film that represents England’s finest achievement in war propaganda, but has genuine qualities enough to transcend its politics.