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The Sand Pebbles Reviews

Page 1 of 13

Super Reviewer

September 6, 2011
This is further proof that Robert Wise was one of the most versatile and diverse directors out there.

Set in China in 1926, this is the story of a burnt out and apathetic sailor who gets transfered to a ragged American gunboat whose main mission is to protect U.S. interests in China without causing an international incident, something not all that easy given how China is in the midst of all kinds of turmoil and revolution.

The main things the movie deals with are imperialism, the impact of nationalism and protesting, race relations, and cultural traditions, etc. It's full of substance and thought, but also contains lots of human drama and action as well. Considering the long running time, the fact that this is all so jammed packed is good, because there's plenty of time for everything to get fleshed out and dealt with.

For the most part, this is all pretty successful too. The action seems really disjointed given how the bulk of it is saved for the third act, but the build up to it does have some suspense and tension, as you get the feeling throughout that eventually things will finally boil over. It's also nice to see the rather sensitive way racism and cultural issues are dealt with, especiually how in the mid 60s this sort of thing could have gone really bad. It is Robert Wise though, so I don't think you need to be too worried.

The sets, costumes, and locations are great, there's wonderful cinematography, the music is thrilling, and there's a little bit of everything here, so this can be appreciated by a wide audience.

Performance wise, it's all top notch. It's surprising that Steve McQueen only got one Oscar nomination during his career, but that it happened here is fine. He's great as always, and not once is he ever boring to watch. Rochard Attenborough is likewise great as rthe one sailor who is able to look past the flaws of McQueen's character and be his only real friend and ally. It's awesome seeing Richard Crenna in a pre-Rambo related role, even though he's still playing a military part. Mako is also great here, though I really wanted more of him. What presence he does have is splendid though, and his Oscar nod was also quite deserved.

All in all, this is a really good movie. It is quite long, and occasionally it is uneven and runs out of steam from time to time, but even then it always has something good going for it, and has a lot to offer.
Christian C

Super Reviewer

October 27, 2012
Wonderful film with a wonderful story.

Super Reviewer

January 21, 2009
An apathetic American sailor gets caught in the crossfire between ill-fated western colonialism and the Chinese revolution. A compelling drama full of passion and raw human decency, expertly directed by the legendary Robert Wise.
Ken S

Super Reviewer

June 24, 2007
Really really okay. Some great parts, but overall it's another one of those melodramatic war films that were popular in the 50's & 60's
Lanning :

Super Reviewer

April 24, 2006
I was home. What happened? What the hell happened? Geez, now I'm gonna have to add Steve McQueen to my favorite actor list. Amazing how you can never seem to run out of movies to review here because you keep remembering yet another one you've seen. If you've not seen this movie, it's a definite must for all McQueen fans. Mako gives the performance of his career in this one as well. You see a movie like this and, if you really are one of those cynical types, you have confirmation, at least until the movie shifts out of your consciousness, that good guys always do finish last. The emptiness you feel when good-hearted Jake Holman gives up everything, all for what was a hopeless cause to begin with . . . Man, what the hell did happen? Perhaps a veiled comment not just on Vietnam, but a bold comment about the heartbreaking futility of all wars. Ah yes, really, you must see this in order to celebrate McQueen when he rises to a demonstration of his best abilities. I'll stick my neck out and say this is the most well-rounded performance of his entire career. Richard Crenna, Candice Bergen, and Richard Attenborough all provide strong support, too, but Mako truly is amazing. You will never forget his last scene in this movie.
John B

Super Reviewer

March 11, 2014
I will always remember this film as one introduced to me by my Quebecois roommate when I was learning to speak French. McQueen lacks chemistry with Bergen but allows us to experience adventure through his eyes in a memorable epic.
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

April 21, 2012
I know it's the '60s, but don't get this film confused with the Australian psychedelic rock band, Sand Pebbles, mainly because that band showed up way too late, in 2001, well after psychedelic rock and, well, music, all together, died out. That's right, I just refered to a contemporary rock band, and one that no one's even heard of, so you know I looked into that bull. It just goes to show you how committed I am to these jokes, which is pretty depressing when you consider that most of them still fall pretty flat... *cough*like*cough*this*cough*one*cough*. Man, forcing myself to actually look up that terrible band - whose songs I haven't even heard a microsecond of, but I'm sure are terrible - makes me feel like I was actually on the stuff they're marketed towards, because I'm feeling pretty sick, and it doesn't help that I just watched a three hour movie about people at sea. Now that's some sea sickness for you, but hey, I don't mind, because I'm still having a good time watching this film. However, it's an experience that goes tainted by some rough tides along the way.

I hear the film ran an astronomical 243 minutes upon its submission to the BBFC, and my only regret is that I didn't see that version, as I am curious to see how in the world they could possibly drag out this film even more. As it stands, the film runs a whopping three hours, with 14 minutes tacked on in the "Roadshow" cut, and it does not justify that mammoth length. The film is plagued by long periods of nothingness that, admittedly more often than not, help in establishing our characters, leaving them still enjoyable pieces of nothingness, but piece of nothingness, nevertheless. Still, unlike most cases of nothingness throughout film, the excess material doesn't slow down the film, partially because, even during more significant segments, the film is quite slow to begin with, further slowing down the intrigue in a film already plagued by the fact that it's just too '60s, and by that, I don't mean that this film is too safe, because with its racism and being a [u]1960s[/u] film that deals with [u]American and Asian political issues[/u], this film film is anything but too safe, or at least from 1960s standards. No, the problem is that the film feels so very conventional to other films of its era, which certainly drags it down a bit, and were it not for its being so long and audacious, it would almost be forgettable. However, its being conventional is, well, about as much a good thing as it is a bad thing, in that it does fall into familiar tropes and flaws, but ultimately comes out, boasting the charm and quality of those classic pictures. It's no knockout, but it is certainly enjoyable, with all of its mistakes, and is made so by the aspects in which it does, in fact, accel.

The score isn't at all as glowing or original as many claim it to be, but it is still quite lively, sobering and charming, giving the film texture and, at times, even dramatic weight. Yes, the film hits its dramatic points, and harder than you would expect it to, but more often than not, the film understands classic comradery, neither overly sapping up or overdoing the chemistry and scenarios that fall upon our leads. This film is colorful and enjoyable, as far as charm goes, and although it does so in a conventional fashion, this film earns your investment in our characters, which, of course, makes it all the harder when the audacious drama of the film falls into place. Sure, while it's not on a "Gone With the Wind" level, where war, sham marriages, love triangles, alcoholism, child death and so on and so forth come off as borderline wacky, but the drama is a victim of the film's time, going diluted a fair bit. However, the film powers on more than you ever would have expected, having the guts to paint as brutal, harsh and emotional of a portrait on even the lightest of warfare as it can, and whether it be the somewhat disturbing auction scene or that pretty messed up "Shoot me!" sequence, this film delivers on some shocking drama that genuinely sticks with you, and for that, credit goes out to the performers, as well. Okay, now, there's not a whole lot for the performers to do, and when there is some material, it doesn't quite milk them for all they're worth, but the entire cast is, if nothing else, charming and distinctive, but when the drama does come along, and emotional material with it, while they aren't asked to really hit, the performers deliver with some decent resonance. The film is indeed slow and tonally conventional, yet it still triumph fabulously, and more than you would expect it to, leaving the film generally entertaining and, to a certain degree, even dramatically rewarding.

In conclusion, from a tonal standpoint, the film feels conventional, and it doesn't help that the film falls into the long periods of nothingness and slowness that plagued films of its type and of its era, yet the film almost stands as a highlight among that crowd, putting a few twists on that classic feel of charm and comradery between the leads, while pumping in genuinely effective dramatic aspects, and all goes empowered by a colorful group of distinctive performances that help in making "The Sand Pebbles" a compelling and generally entertaining, classic war drama.

3/5 - Good

Super Reviewer

August 4, 2010
Another film from the nostalgia vaults. The Sand Pebbles is a long film, but the story is compelling and well done, and has some very fine acting turns for tough guy Steve McQueen, Richard Crenna, and Richard Attenborough. It's realistic in its depiction of the strange gunboat conflicts that have erupted in China from time to time. The scenery is also a great backdrop to an era that most people know little about. It had some very brutal scenes for a film of this era, and the dramatic tension ebbs and flows with precision despite the long running time. The era comes to life so well, you really feel as if you're stuck on the river with the crew.

Chris B

Super Reviewer

September 15, 2011
I thought the film was good, a little long, but interesting nonetheless. Steve McQueen was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance and there are some good performances here, but some appears a little too much like it's scripted. For a film made in 1966, the themes here are very modern for their time and very applicable today.

Super Reviewer

July 4, 2010
The Sand Pebbles is a 1966 American period war film directed by Robert Wise. It tells the story of an independent, rebellious U.S. Navy machinist mate aboard the fictional gunboat USS San Pablo in 1920s China.
The Sand Pebbles features Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, Richard Crenna, Candice Bergen and Mako.
A little long and slow , but well made movie.

Super Reviewer

January 15, 2008
Something of a forgotten epic. Major player in the 1966 Oscars and a major part of director Robert Wise?s career, but today not many people know about it. A story of a conflict that emerged in 1920s China, and the American sailors caught in the middle of it. It?s generally a pretty good yarn about a period of history I haven?t heard much about. I was a bit uncomfortable with some of the racial content here, the Chinese characters are disturbingly close to being negative stereotypes and are never really given a chance to rise above this. Still, Steve McQueen holds this together and there is a really cool sea battle toward the end.

Super Reviewer

April 8, 2007
Excellent acting from the entire cast in my favorite movie from Steve McQueen.
May 27, 2012
Just the fact that McQueen's character is from Utah makes this movie worth seeing.

A good slow paced war drama that gets to small time naval warfare in China during Chiang Kai Shek's. It shows us more of the gritty details of saving missionaries, being in the Navy, furlough and relations with the natives. Arguably this is one of McQueen's best roles. Attenborough, Crenna and Bergen are a good supporting cast.
May 8, 2011
This movie has one of the most iconic infiltration/shoot-out scenes of all time. Classic Steve McQueen.
August 16, 2009
This is my favorite Steve McQueen movie ever. I loved the way how he portrayed being the "rebel" to a boat full of undisciplined lot and a laissez-faire captain. Quite a contradiction there. I always enjoyed watching the river battle of the crew and the Chinese. Cool movie all around.

Super Reviewer

April 20, 2009
(1966 Director: Robert Wse) One of the great films starring the wonderful Steve McQueen...with Tommy Lee, Candace Bergin & the Captain (Richard Crenna) of the "Sand Pebble" U-boat. Setting 1926 China as Civil War breaks out our crew is caught up in the middle. See it for a tender young Candace Bergen or a tough performance by Richard Crenna, or for the lasting love story of Frenche & Melee.

{review to be continued}
June 5, 2007
a great movie that my dad loves... great story about what happens when your good intentions go bad... this is being released in a new fancy DVD and you can bet i'll pick it up
February 9, 2007
Absolutely thrilling. Saw in theatres 6 or 7 times (we didn't have VCR/DVD or TV movies back then.) I was just drawn to it.
June 4, 2006
Steve McQueen don't take no shit. And he'd be happy if you just left him alone with his engine in the sublevel of a 1926 Navy gunboat. He doesn't want to be bothered. McQueen is an engineer of the old-school style. When transferred to his new station in China he disapproves of local "coolies", chinamen, helping to run the ships engine. It's a tough transition and Steve-o makes a few enemies, but he also makes a few friends. All-in-all he sticks to his guns and does his best to do what's right. It's a classic flick of the good "bad guy." It's great when McQueen grits his teeth gettin mad.
Luc L.
March 23, 2014
A slow starting film which diverges from the storyline into multiple subplots and it failed to grasp my interest after an hour of viewing.
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