The Battle of the River Plate (Pursuit of the Graf Spee) (1956) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Battle of the River Plate (Pursuit of the Graf Spee) (1956)

The Battle of the River Plate (Pursuit of the Graf Spee) (1956)

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




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Battle of the River Plate (Pursuit of the Graf Spee) Trailers & 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. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovimore
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Classics
Directed By: ,
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 9, 2010


John Gregson
as Capt. F.S. Bell "Exe...
Anthony Quayle
as Commodore Harwood
Peter Finch
as Capt. Hans Langsdorf...
Ian Hunter
as Capt. Woodhouse "Aja...
Jack Gwillim
as Capt. Parry "Achille...
Bernard Lee
as Capt. Patrick Dove "...
Lionel Murton
as Mike Fowler American...
Anthony Bushell
as Mr. Millington-Drake...
Michael Goodliffe
as Capt. McCall British...
Patrick Macnee
as Lieutenant Commander...
John Chandos
as Dr. Langmann German ...
Douglas Wilmer
as Mr. Desmoulins Frenc...
William Squire
as Ray Martin
Roger Delgado
as Capt. Varela
Andrew Cruickshank
as Capt. Stubs
Christopher Lee
as Manola Cantina Manag...
April Olrich
as Dolores Cantina Sing...
David Farrar
as Narrator
Peter Illing
as Dr. Guani Uruguayan ...
John Le Mesurier
as Chaplain "Exeter"
John Merivale
as Pilot "Achilles" Bri...
John Schlesinger
as German Officer
Anthony Newley
as British Officer aboa...
Nigel Stock
as British Officer aboa...
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Battle of the River Plate (Pursuit of the Graf Spee)

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

All Critics (10) | 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.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
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.

Full Review… | January 28, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Powell and Pressburger's final collaboration as The Archers was also, perhaps, their dullest.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
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.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The film is adroitly directed by Powell and Pressburger, though the concentration is on the vessels, rather than the men aboard them.

Full Review… | May 14, 2012
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Not Powell and Emeric's greatest work, but still a cut above many '50s war movies.

Full Review… | May 14, 2012
Empire Magazine

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


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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