The Caine Mutiny ★★★★


Dump the wet noodle of a protagonist (who does apparently have more of a personality in Wouk's novel) and this would likely vault from impressive to indelible. As it is, hard to think offhand of another Hollywood film that so violently undercuts its ostensible triumphant ending, albeit in a way that's vaguely anti-intellectual and unmistakably pro-military. One of my favorite short stories—ideawise, not so much in terms of its prose—is Isaac Asimov's "The Dead Past," in which the hero valiantly struggles against oppression only to discover, when he finally succeeds, that his oppressors knew what they were doing and his efforts have pretty much trashed human freedom. At its best, The Caine Mutiny is an even thornier version of that scenario, both validating and disparaging the mutineers while making Queeg (in Bogart's gutsy portrayal) a figure of ridicule as well as a paragon of dignity. Still, I think this would all work so much better told from Fred MacMurray's point of view—a shift that would also obviate the need for the romantic subplot that keeps clonking us over the head with reminders that Whatshiszzzzz kowtows to authority too easily. In fact, motion to replace all callow, wholesome male leads with Fred MacMurray.