The Battle of the River Plate (Pursuit of the Graf Spee)


The Battle of the River Plate (Pursuit of the Graf Spee)

Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 11


Audience Score

User Ratings: 808
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The Battle of the River Plate (Pursuit of the Graf Spee) Photos

Movie Info

Widely regarded as one of the best and most intelligent British war dramas of the 1950s, The Battle of River Plate is the story of Britain's first significant naval victory in WW2. John Gregson heads the cast as Captain Bell, skipper of the Exeter, one of several vessels engaged in pursuit of the "indestructable" Geman battleship Graf Spee. Taking refuge in the neutral harbor of Montevideo, the Graf Spee is covertly protected by the Uruguayan government. Eventually, however, German captain Langsdorff (Peter Finch) is faced with a difficult decision: either stand his ground and fight a losing battle against the Exeter and its sister ships, or scuttle the Graf Spee and save the lives of his crew. Battle of the River Plate was released in the US as Pursuit of the Graf Spee.


John Gregson
as Capt. Bell
Peter Finch
as Capt. Langsdorff
Anthony Quayle
as Commodore Harwood
Ian Hunter
as Capt. Woodhouse
Jack Gwillim
as Capt. Parry
Bernard Lee
as Capt. Patrick Dove
Lionel Murton
as Mike Fowler
Anthony Bushell
as Mr. Millington-Drake
Peter Illing
as Dr. Guani
Michael Goodliffe
as Capt. McCall
Patrick Macnee
as Lt. Cmdr. Medley
John Chandos
as Dr. Langmann
Douglas Wilmer
as Mr. Desmoulins
William Squire
as Ray Martin
Roger Delgado
as Capt. Varela
Andrew Cruickshank
as Capt. Stubs
April Olrich
as Dolores
John Le Mesurier
as Rev. George Groves
David Farrar
as Narrator
Brian Worth
as Radio Operator
Barry Foster
as Bill Roper
John Schlesinger
as German Officer
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Critic Reviews for The Battle of the River Plate (Pursuit of the Graf Spee)

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (4)

  • The battle sequences, in which the lightweight British cruisers close in on the Graf Spee and force the enemy to take shelter in Montevideo harbor, are powerful, exciting and technically impressive.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • Give the British filmmakers a good, rousing subject from their own naval history and they're almost certain to come up with a picture that proudly bespeaks the courage and audacity of a hero breed.

    Jan 28, 2006 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • Powell and Pressburger's final collaboration as The Archers was also, perhaps, their dullest.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Though it's mostly a waiting game, the film is tense and involving, thanks to Powell's fluid shifting of the point of view.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…
  • This account of the first of the war's major naval actions is straightforward, serious and made with a scrupulous concern to be fair to both sides.

    Jan 24, 2018 | Full Review…
  • The film is adroitly directed by Powell and Pressburger, though the concentration is on the vessels, rather than the men aboard them.

    May 14, 2012 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Battle of the River Plate (Pursuit of the Graf Spee)

  • Aug 03, 2012
    During the early days of World War II, the Nazis tried to starve Great Britain by targeting its merchant fleet. One of Germany's deadliest weapons was the pocket battleship Graf Spee, where Captain Langsdorff(Peter Finch) welcomes aboard Captain Dove(Bernard Lee) after sinking his ship, the Africa Spell, in disputed waters off Portugese East Africa. Langsdorff soon fulfills his promise that Dove will have company, but not before one of the survivors gets off a radio message before his ship is sunk. So, now Commodore Harwood(Anthony Quayle) has a pretty good idea where the Graf Spee will be, as he waits with the destroyers Ajax, Achilles and Exeter. Written, directed and produced by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, "The Battle of the River Plate" gets off to a slow start, with minimal cuts, that serves its purpose in setting the stage for the taut action that is to follow. As such, the movie aims to give a realistic portrayl of naval warfare during World War II with the navies in full seek and destroy mode, armed with equal measures of skill and luck. Surprisingly, the characters are rather fond of rules, which get quoted a lot. Instead of dragging the movie down, this actually helps with adding suspense, especially with the ironic ending. As the story is told mostly from the British side, I do wish more time had been given over to Langsdorff as he does seem interesting in an old school sort of way and therefore something of an anomaly.
    Walter M Super Reviewer

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