Damn the Defiant! Reviews
Both leads put on very good performances. Guinness brings Captain Crawford's empathy and resoluteness fully to life. Although he would loathe the comparison, at times he does seem rather like a certain desert hermit in his kindly, aged wisdom. And for his part Bogarde is the epitome of a jerk. With his displays of anger, pettiness, and entitlement he makes himself very easy to hate. The production values are good, with fairly authentic costumes, sets, and other period touches. The naval battles are also quite rousing impressive, with good swordplay and effects that have stood up well considering their age.
The film's main shortcoming is that it never treats the mutiny with any serious depth. It's true that a great deal of time is dedicated to the conditions on the Defiant, and to the build-up of discontent that lead to the mutiny. It's also clear that the men have very real grievances, mostly relating to Lieutenant Scott-Padget. But no time is taken to dwell on whether their actions were justified in a time of war, or any soul searching by the men themselves. The ending leaves me inclined to agree with Captain Crawford's lenient position, yet it stills feels like too easy an answer. But perhaps I'm asking too much from what's intended as a fun war movie.
All in all, Damn the Defiant may not equal the classic Billy Bud or some of the better adaptations of Horatio Hornblower, but with good acting and good action it's a worthwhile voyage for all ages.
I was surprised by the depth and maturity of this and what it was trying to do. Instead of the anticipated Captain-Guinness-against-the-disgruntled-mutinous-hordes I was instead treated to a tale of personal drama, military politicking, and the grace found in honor amongst men. Also some stuff about patriotism. And some fun period detail. And damn the French. It's not Hugo, but for those willing to keep up with the little details and appreciate some subtle nuance, there are many layers to this one. 'Good' and 'right' float about a murky grey area, giving the whole thing some legitimacy and real character.
It loses some of its luster whenever it gets to the obligatory long-winded naval battles which can't help but age the film, and that turn attention away from the real meat of the story. Coupled with the overbearing dialogue, its enough to hold the film back from greatness but not so much that the things it has to offer are totally lost in the noise.
If you're into nautical history and military drama and have exhausted the bigger maritime war classics - this is an entirely viable place to turn.