Fredrik Fyhr’s review published on Letterboxd:
Kubrick's own dismissal of this film has cast a long shadow, and I think it gets unfairly dismissed because of its admittedly hokey script and silly acting. Hokey is not the same thing as bad though - and sometimes people go on about this movie as if its BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA, when in fact the movie is a lot more interesting than just about any other movie made like this in the early 1950s. FEAR AND DESIRE deserves slack as an interesting exercise - crude, awkward, dismissable as "entertainment", but also bold, admirable, at heart a very visionary piece. Not so much because of the story, but because of Kubrick's obvious attunement to his own instincts - thematically, it's a kin to FULL METAL JACKET, a quasi-poetic take on war as an existential play of dehumanisation, and there's an unexpected purity to Kubrick's choices - the dog is wonderfully planted, the use of the same actor as the two leaders is brilliant, and cinematography-wise Kubrick is already at home.
The film is spoiled by amateur actors, pretentious navel-gazing in the script and a very wobbly editor (I love how Kubrick produly presents himself as the editor in the credits... bold indeed!) but then again it is an amateur effort and as such it is very impressive. When movies are made off the grid, without guidelines and conventions, it will not resemble professional or conventional films. Looking at Kubrick's career, it seems key that he defined himself early on, from his own platform. It's probably healthier for a filmmaker to make a personal movie people don't like, than it is to make a popular movie that's impersonal and predictable, especially early in one's career.