High sea adventures with Marlon Brando, why, it's an offer you can't refuse, unless you're not really in the mood for a three-hour film. Man, even that "offer you can't refuse" allusion type of joke that I just made kind shook my desire to watch this film, and I just got done watching and liking it. Hey, if you think that that pun-esque joke is lame, you should here my one about the idea that director Lewis Milestone followed "Ocean's 11" up with this film because he was still in the mood for the "ocean". Eh, speaking of "Les MisÚrables", these puns about Milestone's filmography are bound to make an audience "all quiet on the western front". So yeah, in case you haven't figured it out yet, I'm having trouble trying to figure out material for this opener, which is surprising, considering that Milestone has done a lot of major films to make more clever references to, with this film being about as long as, well, all of them combined, which I reckon is fitting, seeing as how this was Milestone's last theatrical film, or rather, yet another big "milestone" for him. Hey, I just spent three hours watching people hang out on the ocean, so I'm a little bit dizzy, much like the producers probably were when they saw the final gross-budget ratio of this film. Yeah, nice going for taking over Milestone's directing position and making the film go over budget, Brando, you classically talented jerk, even if you did end up helping in making a good film, which isn't to say that all runs smoothly on this sea journey.
The film is plenty entertaining, with colorful direction and plot structuring, yet it can only go so far before slipping into dry spells, which are never so cold that the film devolves into dullness, and rarely, if ever bland the film up all that much, but still stand as just pronounced enough disengage and leave you drifting away. Again, more often than not, the film does a pretty good job of holding your attention, and never really loses your investment, yet dry spells still stand through all of the entertainment value, and I can't really say that I'm all that surprised, as director Lewis Milestone must have had some trouble trying to sustain intrigue through a film this overlong. The film is enough of an epic for its sprawling three-hour runtime to not come off as punishingly unfitting, but make no mistake, the final product outstays it welcome, taking on so much excess material, if not filler, that, before too long, plotting begins to meander into limp spells, perhaps even repetition. Don't get me wrong, I like a good long film, and sure enough, this film takes plenty of it wealth of time to flesh things out, yet for every compelling piece of expository meat, there is fat around the edges that only serves to retard momentum, generally into simple repetition, and sometimes into total aimlessness. I suppose you could call this film a character study, and you can certainly call it a dramatic epic that takes its time fleshing things out, so it's not like this film was to ever have as much momentum as your typical adventure epic, but the gaps between rises and falls in plotting are much too often blown out way too far, leaving you with more than enough time to meditate upon the thin spots in this story concept, rather than the high spots, of which there are plenty. I must admit, almost all of the first hour of this film, while not truly excellent, is really, really good, with high compellingness that can be occasionally found through the film's body, but after a while, the story concept's kick starts to slow down, and the story concept's execution's finds itself continuing to rarely pick up all that much, leaving you to get too used to an aimless formula to be truly gripped, for although the final product is never less than good, it's not quite what it very well could have been and almost is. That being said, what the final product ultimately is is reasonably rewarding, with compellingness that isn't as fleshed out as could have been, but still stands firm, backed by a sweeping feel that is supplemented by even the lightest of artistic touches.
Bronislau Kaper's score for this film came along at a formulaic time, and sure enough, it fails to deliver all that much uniqueness as an epic score of the 1960s, yet where Kaper's efforts could have gone the way of plenty of other scores of the type and time by blandly tossing out conventions just for the sake of tossing out conventions, they genuinely celebrate the wealth of their formula, whose dynamic musical flavor and sweeping soul help in gracing the film with entertainment value, while complimenting the film's distinguished sense of sweep. Even the musical aspects of this film breathe life into a feeling of broad scope, but really, the aesthetic attribute that really does about as much as anything in defining the sweep of this epic is, of course, Robert L. Surtees' then-outstanding and still-striking cinematography, whose tasteful coloring provides plenty of consistent handsomeness, broken up by unexpectedly truly stunning moments, that attracts attention, while cleverly tight framing and dynamic camerawork truly immerses you into the grand environment, further sold on you by excellent production designs. Aesthetically and technically, this film had to have stood out for its time, and is still worthy of praise to this day, crafting a vision of the HMAV Bounty's infamously troubled late 18th century voyage that is grandly immersive, in spite of shortcomings in storytelling that distance you a bit from the final product's substance. I wish I could say that the telling of this tale is as commendable as the look of this world, but really, when it's all said and done, there is a reason why this story, interpreted into the book upon which this film is based by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall in 1932, has stood the test of time, as it is so intriguing, with human depth and dramatic potential that could have been more thoroughly explored in this film, but is still brought to the silver screen with enough inspiration to compel quite well, with Charles Lederer putting together a script that may get to be excessive, but generally keeps tight in its fleshing out rich characterization that is complimented by strong, if a bit underwritten performances. Whether it be Trevor Howard as the despicably harsh captain with no regard for the lives of his men, or layered leading man Marlon Brando as a strong, but humanly flawed leader whose actions will leave him to face great changes and great risks, or even a charming supporting cast, most everyone in this cast pulls weight, and while the performers can't carry the final product into the high strength that it sometimes flirts with, they join decent writing in fleshing out a worthy, epic-length character piece, further brought to life by what is, in fact, done right in Lewis Milestone's direction. Were Milestone more focused as storyteller, this film would have stood a chance of consistently sustaining strength, maybe even achieving bonafide excellence, yet his inspiration never loses so much momentum that you lose your investment, secured by dramatic efforts that were audacious at the time, and are most often than not still effective to this day in their establishing tension within the conflicts - thin though they may be - and heart within the character drama. At the very least, Milestone keeps things entertaining, not so much so that you don't fall out more often than you probably should, but nevertheless enough so that liveliness keeps you awake enough to get a good feel for the technical proficiency, good script and charismatic performances that would have made an excellent film if they weren't so opposed by some serious shortcomings, and go into making a final product that is still worth watching.
Overall, bland spells dilute engagement value, while ironically calling your attention more toward repetitious bloating and dragging that thin plotting momentum out too much for consistent high strength to be sustained, thus leaving the final product to fall short of its potential, even though it still accels enough to reward, to some degree, thanks to the strong score work, excellent cinematography, fine production designs, and inspired writing, acting and direction that make Lewis Milestone's "Mutiny on the Bounty" a compelling epic that leaves much to be desired, but still delivers on plenty that thoroughly entertains.
3/5 - Good