Nicholas Monsarrat's novel
is an unflinching, realistic and emotionally involving account of naval life during the Second World War in which the "heroes" are the men, the "heroines" the ships and the "villain" is not so much the German U-Boats lurking below as "the cruel sea" itself. This 1953 film has become a classic of British cinema largely because it is a straightforward, no-frills adaptation of the book and retain's much of the original's compelling yet almost understated dramatic focus. On convoy duty in the North Atlantic, the crew of HMS Compass Rose face as a matter of routine the threat of destruction from U-Boats as well as a constant struggle against the elements. The convoys themselves are Britain's only lifeline and their loss would lead to certain defeat, but in the early years of the war the ships sent to protect them can do almost nothing to prevent the U-Boat attacks. Jack Hawkins gives one of his finest performances as Captain Ericson, the commander who has to balance destroying the enemy against saving the lives of the men under his care. In one unforgettable scene--a crucial turning point for all the characters--he must decide whether to depth charge a suspected submarine despite the presence of British sailors in the water. As with the book, the individual officers and their lives are carefully delineated, helped by the strength of a cast of (then) young actors (notably Donald Sinden and Denholm Elliot). Ultimately what makes The Cruel Sea
such an undeniable classic is that it has neither the flag-waving jingoism nor the war-is-hell melodrama so common to most war movies: instead it relates in an almost matter-of-fact way the bitterness of the conflict at sea fought by ordinary men placed in the most extraordinary of circumstances. --Mark Walker
World War Two drama, based on the best-selling book by Nicholas Monsarrat, starring Jack Hawkins. Lt. Commander Ericson (Hawkins) has already lost one ship to an enemy attack when he is given command of the frigate Saltash Castle. A subsequent confrontation in the North Atlantic tests Ericson's leadership to the limit once again, as he risks sacrificing the lives of his crew for the greater good.
Comdr. Ericson is captain of the Corvette Compass Rose, a small escort vessel used to protect convoys travelling through the Atlantic. Ericson had his confidence severely shaken during his last command, in which he nearly lost his ship and most of its men following an attack by a German U-boat. As he leads a new and largely inexperienced crew. Ericson is once again thrown into a life-and-death dilemma that forces his to choose between destroying an enemy ship and sparing the lives of his own men.