Starring Humphrey Bogart, Robert Francis, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Lee Marvin, May Wynn, Tom Tully, Jose Ferrer, E.G Marshall
Tense. Stirring. Thoughtful.
Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg: Aboard my ship, excellent performance is standard, standard performance is sub-standard, and sub-standard performance is not permitted to exist – that, I warn you.
Captain Queeg, in the hands of Humphrey Bogart, is an unforgettable character. With maybe only thirty or so minutes of screen time, Bogart carves out a fascinating performance; petty, insecure, hypocritical, neurotic. If the question was simply is Queeg a bad leader, the answer would be obvious and the film would progress entertainingly but also superficially-much like the various versions of Mutiny on the Bounty. However, the battle in The Caine Mutiny is a legalistic one, and the question is whether or not Captain Queeg is psychotic. If sailors were able to overthrow any leader they deemed unworthy, I think very few ships would get anywhere and war is a bad time for mutiny. Everyone aboard the USS Caine hates Queeg’s guts, but it’s the executive officer, LT. Maryk (Johnson), and Ensign Keith (Francis), that make the fateful decision to relieve him of his duties. They’re court-martialed and stand trial for their lives, defended by LT. Greenwald (Ferrer), who isn’t even sure that he wants to win the case. This is an ultra-taut thriller with no action sequences, which is pretty amazing, and the perfect cast for each and every role. Ultimately though, the success of The Caine Mutiny depends on us despising Queeg as much as his crew does. Bogart was a short man with a massive screen presence. The Caine Mutiny is the first film I’ve seen him in that I thought of him as small. He’s such a perfect twerp, and when the film asks its big questions in the end, we’re forced to consider them through the flood of anger that the preceding hour and a half so adroitly stirred up in us.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-