David Lean’s directorial debut. He shares credit with Noël Coward, who also produced, stars, and wrote the screenplay.
Opening during the Battle of Crete, the film rivets. We’re thrust aboard a British destroyer engaging Axis ships. Coward proves a sturdy captain, leading his crew to victory. But then dawn comes, and with it German dive-bombers. We’re aboard the ship as it mounts a valiant defense, but the onslaught proves too much, forcing Coward to give the order to abandon ship.
From here, the film segues into a series of flashbacks, fleshing out the backstory of various crew members. These range from mediocre to accomplished, with a sequence involving the Blitz proving a highlight. I enjoyed the film, but struggled at times to differentiate the characters. A difficulty I suspect British viewers wouldn’t endure. As a piece of wartime propaganda, the film proves exceptional. But it’s aged well, thanks to Coward’s insightful writing and the stacked supporting cast.