In Harm's Way Reviews
Certainly it seems slow to those of us who are used to flimsy TV movies or Hollywood blockbusters that rely on FX to distract from mediocre scripts, but each minute either sets up a major plot point or brings us directly into that scene. Most of the more emotional scenes are quite brief - partly because this film came out in 1965. Many young men were being shipped out for Vietnam and there was no sense in dwelling on those points to upset loved ones to the point of not being able to watch the rest of the film. Another reason for skimping on the melodrama is that so many of the over 30 film-goers had already had their share of war's atrocities - they only needed a brief reminder and a flood of memories about how nearly every family had missing members and emotional scars from the Korean conflict as well as both World Wars.
Today this film might be rated NC-17. There are several negative depictions of the human condition here, everything but murder. Then most of the positive traits aren't shown to heroic - merely necessary in a moment of stress. Perhaps that's all being a hero really is, and it is a needed reminder coming from Preminger and friends.
Captain Rockwell Torrey is an aging Navy captain of a battle ship. He takes on a new crew in a battle against the Japanese. He had an unfortunate historical battle result that he wishes to redeem himself with this mission. He happens to have his son on the vessel, a son he hasn't seen in ten years. Their relationship unfolds under these intense conditions.
"He's my son."
"I'd like to meet him."
"No you wouldn't."
Otto Preminger, director of Anatomy of Murder, Laura, The Man with the Golden Arm, Bunny Lake is Missing, Skidoo, and Carmen Jones, delivers In Harm's Way. The storyline for this picture is interesting and fascinating characters that are well developed. The cast delivers very good performances and includes John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Burgess Meredith, Dana Andrews, Patricia Neal, and Paula Prentiss,
"She's making half a million bucks a year and still collecting alimony from me."
I came across this film on Netflix and found it well done. I enjoyed the interactions, dialogue, and ultimate outcome. It is a classic military drama with some unique elements and interaction. I recommend seeing this.
"I don't even remember you."
Melodramatic adaptation of James Bassett's novel detailing a WWII naval officer and his attempt to prove himself against the Japanese, after he failed at Pearl Harbor. Star cast, splendid photography (by Loyal Griggs), but fatally weakened by its overlength.
I must give this film quite a bit of credit for its melodramatics' intrigue and at least not being as derivative as they can be, but the fact of the matter is that so much of the dramatic value of this film's story concept thrives on histrionics, which seem to manufacture conflicts and layers in an attempt to mold an epic in a perhaps overblown manner. Again, the melodrama is generally realized, so maybe the film isn't quite as soapish as they say to me, but it's still overblown, even with its questionable dramatics, which you should get used to, but only come to focus upon more as the film progresses, proving to also be overblown in structure. At the very least, all of the excessiveness leads to unevenness, for this narrative features several segments and plot layers that it approaches in a fashion often so disjointed it's almost startling, to the point of convoluting the significance of each plot layer over another. I don't know if the film is so much confusing, as much as it's simply disconcertingly inconsistent in its handling of an arguably overblown network of narratives, and such an issue, plain and simple, derives from the film's running a little too long, for although the runtime of two hours and three quarters is adequately justified by generally tight storytelling, when the feet start to drag, if focus isn't convoluted, it's simply lost. There a few plot holes which thin out the plot's effectiveness, but as irony would have it, it's the overdrawn periods of exposition which really do something of an injustice to a conceptually solid story, because, at the end of the day, a lack of action begets a limited sense of consequence, and allows you to soak in all of the melodramatics and plot bloatings which try too hard to compensate. Honestly, on the whole, I find this film not simply underrated, but very rewarding, although that's primarily because the idea behind this dramatic war epic has so much potential that the final product could have soared, if its kick wasn't so heavily diluted by a touch too much ambition. Of course, the kick is never so diluted that reward value is lost, at least for me, for although I see the complaints critics are making, I find that the strengths stand firm.
I've made my cracks on this film's being black-and-white, but bland technical limitations of the time really do subdue the cinematographic abilities of Loyal Griggs which still stand out at times, with handsome lighting that takes good advantage of the black-and-white palette, and with a certain scope that immerses you into distinguished, typically lovely locations. The visuals of the film carry a sweep that, no matter how subtle, is instrumental in establishing a sense of scale, not unlike the story concept itself, because even no matter how much the narrative's interpretation betrays even conceptual intrigue, there is a certain uniqueness to this extensive take on the works and struggles of men and women of the Navy, maybe even to melodramatics which often fit in the context of human themes comfortably enough to engage, so much so that I mean it when I say that this film could have stood out as a war melodrama. Wendell Mayes betrays much of this potential through an overblown scripts, but he too plays a part in bringing life to this effective epic, with sharp dialogue and enough dynamic set pieces to present a certain colorful flavor, even in writing, while extensive exposition draws memorable and distinct roles, brought to life by memorable and distinct performances. I don't know if any of the performances truly stand out, but most everyone has a time to shine, with some of the more recurring talents including the charismatic Patricia Neal and John Wayne, in addition to Kirk Douglas, who hits some edgy highlights in his layered portrayal of a charming, but flawed Navy man who holds a certain unpredictable brutality that he hopes will get him what he feels is due in his troubled life. Although the unevenly used Douglas hits about as hard as anyone, most everyone endears in this surprisingly intimate epic, and that helps a lot in allowing the film to endear, despite its slow spells, yet can only do so much in comparison with directorial storytelling. Otto Preminger's direction can make or break the engagement value of this drama, and although he hits his missteps, he delivers through and through, making sure that what action there is proves to be thrilling in its sweeping staging and sharp technicality, and that the steady strolls in storytelling which stand in long stretches between the action never lose entertainment value, anchored by tight scene structuring and colorful plays on Jerry Goldsmith's score which hold your interest, while your investment is really secured by moving dramatic thoughtfulness. The brightest highlights of the film are pretty strong, and I really wish that the film was that on the whole, and yet, I still dismiss those who criticize the final product as underwhelming, as there is more than enough inspiration to craft a thoroughly compelling dramatic epic.
Overall, there is a certain bloating to the melodramatics, and plenty of bloating to the storytelling structure, whose unevenness defuses momentum to the point of leaving the final product to meander quite a ways short of what it could have been: an almost outstanding war drama, the glimpses of which punctuate visual style, often well-rounded writing, solid performances, and realized direction so inspired that they secure Otto Preminger's "In Harm's Way" as a consistently rewarding melodramatic tribute to the Navy.
3/5 - Good