The Caine Mutiny
Director: Edward Dmytryk
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Robert Francis
Like most great War-movies, 1954-classic The Caine Mutiny too deals less with actual war and more with the psyche of the people involved in it. Based on a Pulitzer-prize winning novel by the same name, this film is apparently about an unprecedented (and of course imaginary!) mutiny of a US naval ship towards the end of World War II but deep down it is all about the frailties of human minds under stress.
A newly inducted US Navy ensign Willy Keith (Robert Francis) is posted on a minesweeper USS Caine. He is dismayed to see a tired old ship and a demoralized crew under a cynical and disinterested commander. He becomes happy when Navy later decides to post a naval veteran Lt. Commander Tweeg (Humphrey Bogart) as the new captain, who promises to change the things by going by the book and enforcing a new code of discipline. But soon, Tweeg’s selfish, incompetent and draconian handling of the ship starts bothering Willy and his colleagues.
Communication Officer Keefer (MacMurray) then alerts the First Officer Maryk (Van Johnson) and Willy about the possibility of Tweeg’s mental instability and even suggests that under the Naval code in the extreme case, Maryk might have to relieve Tweeg from the command! Maryk indeed has to do the same when a violent storm coupled with Tweeg’s ineptness threatens to destroy the ship. But in the Navy’s eyes, it is an act of mutiny. Who is right and who is wrong?
Deft directorial handling of a morally complex plot, an emotionally draining climax and some exceptional performances elevate this film to the classic status. Bogart brilliantly portrays the paranoid, grandiose and internally insecure Tweeg and his ultimate mental disintegration.
The film- (again like most great War classics!) doesn’t blame individuals but blames War itself!
The 1990s-film A Few Good Men definitely mirrored many of the ‘Caine Mutiny’ moments, especially the way the Court Martial trial unravels into a dramatic finale!