Da 5 Bloods
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I May Destroy You
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The actors could do nothing to save the sinking script.
Didn't really enjoy this one as it seemed to have many different story-lines happening, but, none of them were really interesting or captivating
One could easily accuse this film of being Oscar bait and if I am being honest it probably is what with it's cast of Academy Award winners, literary source material and the overwrought direction of Stanley Kramer. Fortunately Kramer's efforts are not enough to weigh down an essentially interesting cast and performances from actors at the height of their powers. The film triumphed at the Academy Awards only in the technical categories but I am glad that it received some recognition in the form of nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Actor. My experience of the film was positive, which surprised me, and that may have driven me to consider the film better than it actually is but for now I walk away from the film with largely enthusiastic views.
In the 1930s, a ship traveling from Veracrux, Mexico to Bremerhaven, Germany transports both 600 displaced workers being deported from Cuba back to Spain and the rich hoping to enjoy their time on the boat together. Tragic La Condesa, Simone Signoret, is addicted to opiates and will be sent to prison when she arrives in Germany as her efforts to free the lower class went against the system. She falls in love with the emotionally neutered German Doctor Willie Schumann, Oskar Werner, while he struggles with whether to return to the wife and children he barely knows. There are also signs of growing anti-Semitism from passengers on board as the Jewish Julius Lowenthal, Heinz Rhumann, is a victim of racist rants from German businessman Siegfried Rieber, Jose Ferrer. Meanwhile fading beauty Mary Treadwell, Vivien Leigh, comes to terms with growing older as she rejects various suitors and failed baseball player Bill Tenny, Lee Marvin, spends his time drinking and sleeping with women. A young couple of artists, Jenny Brown, Elizabeth Ashley, and David Scott, George Segal, have their relationship threatened by his ego and inability to accept criticism from her.
Surely what made the film so appealing to Academy voters in the 1960s was the fact that it touched on an ‘important' issue and appeared sophisticated with it's moody cinematography and length. What I took away from it was an immensely touching romance between the two characters who receive the most screen time in Signoret and Werner. These are two adults who have faced many trials in their lives, which we learn about in great detail, and have tried to close themselves off emotionally by the time they meet one another. In their first interaction we sense the trepidation they both feel at meeting a person they are strongly attracted to while not being in a place where they can pursue a relationship. When they eventually kiss we understand that the relationship is more about an emotional connection based on shared interest in maintaining integrity and appreciating the small moments of relaxation they experience when together. There is the sense that this is a relationship that exists outside of space and time as when the two are together they each seem so comfortable and safe that you want these moments to last forever. This is what makes it all the more tragic when the ship does fatally dock and they are separated with their brief but intense love affair ending.
I rarely cry at the end of films but I did at the end of this one as I was genuinely invested in Werner and the loss of the woman he loves and his untimely death hit me hard. The idea that somebody could feel sad and alone for most of their life and finally find the person they love at the wrong point in time was bittersweet to me. For these two they have been through the best few days of their lives and with returning to reality comes harsh circumstances that tether them back to all of the hardships they have faced in their lives. There is still consolation in the fact that while their joy was brief it was still something that was real and important to them. They did not miss out on love while they had the opportunity to experience it and the honesty of their conversations and powerful attraction that they each feel draws you in.
This is in no small part due to the moving performances from Signoret and Werner who outdo themselves here with rich characterizations and a fascinating chemistry that does not rest on one thing. Signoret ranks up there with the greatest actresses of all time in my opinion and she does some of her best work as the tender looks that she directs at Werner as he lays in bed while she reads to him speak volumes. Her stoicism is represented with equal skill as she is not simply fiery and full of anger but wistful for the time when she had convictions and could stand up for them without fear of being punished. None of the overly mannered styles adopted by actresses at the time are employed in this performance as she is utterly natural and every line would seem to be spontaneous. Werner complements her well as he could have just been the rigid, unfeeling German but he provides his character with unexpected wit and wry humor buried in amongst his anguish over his estrangement from his family and inability to stay with the woman he loves. The two have a chemistry that is quiet and simple without the over the top drama found in other melodramas, they are both resigned to their fates and are willing to simply take the best from the short time they have together.
I have completely overlooked the rest of the film in my review and that is because I was so swept up in the central love story that everything else fell away and because this one element was so great I did not take into account any flaws that the film might have had.
Some parts of this film were very poignant, but at other times it came across as preachy or trying to cover too much material/character stories in too little time. Interesting to see Leigh the beautiful actress as an older woman playing a haughty taughty rich lady with aging problems. Some stories I enjoyed more than others, like the doctor with the criminal woman. Its worth a gander, but not as good as I had built my hopes on.
Despite its flaws, it's worth a second look. Maybe it tries to cover too much. Still, this is a movie about relationships that work and relationships that fail. The movie has some brilliant moments. Have the Jews been good for Germany? The answer is, "Yes." Will Germany try to kill a million Jews? You know the answer to that question.
Yes a bit clumsy at times due to Kramer, but the story and acting are wonderful. I especially love the scene when a drunken Lee Marvin trues to explain something about baseball to Michael Dunn. Brilliant timing by both. Some of the story lines are less engaging (Elizabeth Ashley and George Segal especially), but Signoret, Werner, Leigh triumph. Some nitpicking? The costumes are often straight out of 1965, and are not remotely accurate to 1933.
The best movie score ever composed!
A movie that is still relevant today. So poignant in exposing human frailties and the historic trends toward prejudice and approaching war. We are still on that 'Ship of Fools.' I watch this annually as a reminder to stay awake to the unfolding of political and social tragedy. Excellent performances by Signoret, Werner, Marvin and Leigh. Loved it!
As Hollywood's perennial message man, if there is one thing as sure as death and taxes it is that Stanley Kramer will attempt to wring every possible ounce of ideology and pathos out of a script and onto the screen, and with Ship of Fools Kramer has plenty of wringing to do.
Working from Katherine Anne Porter's novel of the same name, Kramer and screenwriter Abby Mann expertly juggle and weave through a labyrinth of troubled characters aboard an Ocean liner travelling from Mexico to Germany in 1933.
The film opens flippantly with dwarf Carl Glocken (played by Michael Dunn who might be the pick of a very strong bunch) breaking the fourth wall to set the scene, a scene populated by a diverse range of fools that perhaps even the viewer will be able to see themself in. Carl is the only person fit to talk directly to the audience aboard the ship, his mind proving to be the clearest and most objective and his comments prove warranted as the ship represents a cross section of humanity's darker tendencies. The film swivels through its ensemble, from a hypocritical ex-baseball player, to an anguished an unhinged woman amidst the calamity of age and fading beauty. From the ship's doctor who constantly has his moralistic determination shaken by the inevitable evils of man, to a vulnerable and seemingly doomed countess. From an overly optimistic Jewish German to a radical anti-Semite, blind and offensive in his politics. From an artist so impassioned by his work, to his lover who pleads for his attention. From the disheartened lowly working class who occupy the ship's deck to the misguided inhabitants of the first class. And from this assortment Kramer is able catapult into an equally diverse series of discussions, delving into regret, disillusionment, crisis of identity, art, love and most prevalent of all with Nazi Germany looming, bigotry.
Cyclically shifting from acts of hate to faltering relationships to characters on the brink of implosion Kramer can't help but adopt an air of self importance in his handling of such relentlessly hefty ideas. The film slips into soap opera with its parade of damaged individuals and endless heavy handed heart aches and the ship is in constant threat of sinking thanks to the sheer volume of its concepts and their pretentious coating. It is however kept afloat by Kramer's very clear passion for his characters and what they represent. Villainous though some of the personalities may be, the director never goes all in with his vilification of them. He respects them and would admirably rather show them warts and all as humans rather than as heinous caricatures, and this humanist sensibility spills over into his handling of the texts ideologies. He treats his topics with such respect that there importance is impossible to underestimate, the director as ever wearing his heart gallantly on his sleeve.
At two and a half hours it sure seems like a lot of arduous listening, but it is undeniably well worth the listen, and with a universally on-song cast that also boasts Vivien Leigh, Lee Marvin, George Segal and Simone Signoret, it's never as hard to listen to as it could be.
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Ship of Fools is a good concept executed poorly. It has absolutely amazing acting with the performances from Oskar Werner, Vivian Leigh and Simone Signoret among others being just terrific and the highlights of the film. It also has its moments, mostly some emotional as well as sweetly romantic, but it is awfully directed by Stanley Kramer, badly edited and prolong and just too preachy, melodramatic and downright unsubtle.