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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A realistic and thoughtful look at men at war, with a fine performance by Jack Hawkins
The Cruel Sea is, in my view, one of the best movies yet made dealing with naval men at war in WWII. It's the story of the Compass Rose, newly commissioned in 1940 as a convoy escort, and the officers and men who served on her. Her captain (Jack Hawkins) was fresh from the merchant marine; her new officers had seen almost no sea duty. They learned on the job as they...
Published on 12 Jun. 2007 by C. O. DeRiemer

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Interesting, stark and realistic.
Published 6 months ago by Mr. Louis Des Preaux


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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best War at Sea Movie Ever, 4 Oct. 2007
By 
ray dorrity "ray dorrity" (New Forest, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Cruel Sea [DVD] (DVD)
Once upon a time, before the British film indusrty became dominated by our cousins across the pond, the Brits made "REAL" war movies.
This is one of the best.
No great heroics, just a bunch of guys quietly doing their duty during the bitter struggle at sea during the early part of WW2.
The scene that sticks in my mind is the one where the Captain, Jack Hawkins orders his crew to steam right through, and thus killing some British sailers swimming in the water in order to ram a German submarine, and subsequently sitting and crying when he thinks about it.
You would NEVER get that in an American film.
All the usual Brit actors of the 1950's appear in the film.
Great movie, buy and enjoy.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of War Films, 14 Dec. 2007
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This review is from: Cruel Sea [DVD] (DVD)
The story of a corvette and its crew on anti-submarine duty during the Second World War. The film is very thoughtful, and quite closely based on Nicholas Monsarrat's outstanding novel of the same name, and to a lesser extent his factual account of his own experiences as a corvette officer, Three Corvettes, which in any case provided the source material for the novel.

The film stands out because it is not the usual chain of explosions and overblown heroics aimed at younger audiences, but a contemplative look at "real" people dealing with the horrors of war in the North Atlantic. We see the ship's company as their corvette finishes its fitting out and then works up before being released for active duty escorting convoys across the ocean. We see their frustration at not being able to hit back successfully at the U-boats; their worries about loved ones on shore, and what war does to relationships; we watch them grow as people as they learn about death at sea and how deal with an unseen enemy; we see them learn "how to die without wasting anybody's time" - surely an insight into the reality of war that very few other films could match; and we feel the agony of a captain forced to make a decision that may kill his own countrymen - the men he is supposed to be fighting to protect.

The acting is superb throughout, and my copy at least is very sharp and clear. Somehow, black and white seems to suit the mood of this film perfectly, because of its North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean setting, in the same way that Battle of the River Plate, set off Uruguay, could only be in colour.

For those interested in the ships, the corvette Compass Rose was in fact the Greek navy's flower-class Coreopsis; and the second ship, Saltash Castle, was a Royal Navy castle-class corvette, even though it is referred to as a frigate in the film.

One could argue forever about the "best" war film ever made, but if I had to choose one, this would be it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A realistic tale of the Second World War at sea, 29 Mar. 2000
By A Customer
This war time drama is played out through the desperate struggle of one man, his crew and their ship. HMS Compass Rose, a corvette carries out her duty in protecting the vulnerable convoys from the hunting packs of U-boats in the North Atlantic. All the experiences of the war at sea are there, in the faces of the men, the arduous conditions of the rough seas and in the horrors of war like the poor wretched survivors they pluck from the sea, choking and covered in oil. However, the most memorable scene, and one of which is surely equal to any other in cinematic history, has to be when Captain Ericson (Jack Hawkins) is forced to decide whether or not to attack a U-boat or save a group of British survivors that struggle in the water directly above his intended target.
After 1942 this dilemma was turned into a blunt order when the Admiralty instructed anti-submarine vessels to make every attempt to destroy a U-boat and carrying out its priority to protect the convoy. The reason was that U-boats were believed to be diving close to the sinking ship so that their presence in the area would be harder to detect. This often resulted in survivors being in danger of losing their lives or being seriously injured from an indiscriminate depth charge attack.
In the book by Herbert Gordon Male 'In All Respects Ready For Sea,' there is a true story of such an attack and the author gives an account father served on a anti-submarrine armed trawler during the war and his experiences were of special interest to Jack Hawkins whom he met and became friends with during the completion of the film. My father felt that this film was an important one as it told a real story of the men and their sacrifice often missed out by the larger picture of the history of the Battle of the Atlantic. Today it is as honest a film as it was then and shows the effects of war on the ordinary men who fought it. Only a few films have since dared to portray the personal and true realities of war that would result in sacrificing some of the expected pyrotechnics and thrilling action of the big screen.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'THE CREW HAVE TO FACE THE HARSH REALITY'S OF WAR' (A GEM FROM 1953), 1 April 2015
By 
rbmusicman (U.K) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Cruel Sea [Blu-ray] [1953] (Blu-ray)
'Commander Ericson' (Jack Hawkins) a merchant-seaman is assigned to Captain an Atlantic escort ship 'H.M.S.Compass-Rose'
He is given a largely inexperienced crew to sail with and very few weeks to become operational.
The rookie-crew have to learn to cope with the rigours of life at sea, a sea that is often unforgiving, they learn to become a team
dependant on each other.
Early on the Captain is forced to make a change in the chain of command on-board as the original 'First Lieutenant' is forced to quit
for health issues, second officer 'Lochhart' (Donald Sinden) replacing him.
Early on on Atlantic Convoy duty goes well with no encounters with enemy U-Boats the supply's getting through, however the state
of play was set to change as the enemy send more U-Boats to intercept and destroy allied shipping,
The crew were now facing the vivid reality's that war brought to the table, they witness ships being blown apart by torpedo's from the
enemy subs, leaving the crew to rescue any survivors from the stricken vessels, an unnerving experience for the crew of the 'Compass
Rose'
When the ship is reassigned to the Gibraltar run, they find they are in a more intense waters in terms of the number of U-Boats on the
prowell, they frequently feel powerless watching many vessels they are there to protect taking a hit.
Unpleasant decisions are yet to be made, it's war.
A well enacted British WW2 Drama based on a 'Nicholas Monsaratt' novel.
The film capturing the intense pressures and perils the crew have to face on a daily basis.
There are many familiar faces among the cast list frequently seen in the movies back then including 'Denholm Elliott' 'Stanley Baker'
and 'Virginia McKenna'
The film is in Black and White (the Blu-ray upgrade improving the visual quality of the picture) the screen ratio is 4.3
Extras - Interview with Donald Sinden
- Stills Gallery
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Low key but excellent British war film covering the Battle of the Atlantic from the view of the crew of a Corvette., 26 Jan. 2015
The perfect companion for all film enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

The film concerns the crew of a British escort vessel for the duration of WWII, in their many encounters with German U-Boats. The crew is mostly of a civilian background, but Jack Hawkins nevertheless attempts to steer the crew through the potential disasters of war at sea. In terms of tone, it is comparable to Lean/Coward's In Which We Serve, it is a very British film concerning a Royal Navy crew during WWII, and to a degree their families back home. But there is an overarching theme of the indifferent, even cruel, spectre of death at sea. It's certainly a more cynical take on In Which We Serve.

The Cruel Sea starts off very well, setting a dark tone from the outset, as well as having a likeable ensemble of characters. The opening narration is beautiful, and its repeated use at various stages of the film belies any momentary goodwill, reminding of the ever present nature of the cruel sea. There are some memorable scenes in this film. The two classics involve the horrors of men dying at sea. One involves a difficult but pragmatic decision to unleash depth charges on a potential submarine whilst floating British sailors are hovering over it. Another involves the death cries heard through a pipe. Both of these scenes haunt Hawkins' captain, and elicit a sensational performance from him. I loved the character development he went through.

There are issues. The film is a little plodding at times, it certainly has pacing issues. I felt that the film could have been made more effective with a shorter run-time. Although I will admit that I was watching the film whilst a lot of annoyingly loud conversations were going on around me, so I did miss bits of dialogue here and there. The viewing was hampered a little by outside distractions.

The look and feel of this film reminded me at times of Navy life, I loved the realism and downbeat feel of the film. I felt it had a good presentation of things like PTSD, wartime partners at home who move on instead of the typical cliches, and finally the personalities butting heads inside of a vessel. It's one of the better WWII films of the 50s, and one of the exemplary Navy films, and possibly also contains Hawkins' best performance
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cruel Sea - The greatest war film ever made?, 19 Sept. 2009
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cruel Sea [DVD] (DVD)
This war film is a cut above the rest. A story of a newly commissioned corvette (the Compass Rose) and the men assigned to her, this is almost a documentary rather than a fictional film. It is a totally gripping character study, showing how ordinary people adapt to extraordinary circumstances, and the effects the war had both on them, and their lives.

The film is carried largely by the exceptional performance of Jack Hawkins, the Captain who starts off as a generally decent chap, but is forced by the war to do unspeakable things (the men in the water during the submarine hunt is a particularly disturbing example) and becomes harder and haunted as the film progresses.

Plaudits must also go to Denholm Elliot as the sub Lieutenant, and Donald Sinden as the number one. Two newly commissioned officers with no sea experience and 5 weeks at naval college, they are forced to learn on the job and mature quickly. The change in all the characters is marked, and portrayed well.

It's not all about character study though, there are some tense and thrilling scenes, especially the night when the engines break, and the submarine hunts.

A truly great film, which shows the realities of war with a stiff British upper lip. Much better than overwrought American attempts at realism, such as Saving Private Ryan. A film which should be shown to school kids in history lessons, both educational and truly gripping to watch.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ping . . . . . . Ping . . . . . . Ping . . . . . . Ping . . . . . . Ping . . . . . ., 3 July 2008
By 
F. S. L'hoir (Irvine, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cruel Sea [DVD] (DVD)
The unrelenting echo of the sonar punctuates this understated J. Arthur Rank film with a taut atmosphere of suspense. Novelist Eric Ambler's intelligent script remains faithful to Nicholas Monserrat's novel about the last voyage of HMS Compass Rose and all who sailed on her. The splendid performances of Jack Hawkins as her captain and Donald Sinden as his #1 bring the novel to life, as do the performances of the entire ensemble cast, which includes Denholm Elliott. One of the best aspects of the Rank organization films of this era is the devotion that went into the delineation of even the minor characters.

Some viewers may shun this picture because it was filmed in black and white. This is a shame, because "The Cruel Sea" is so absorbing that such details as lack of color become totally irrelevant. Simply put, "The Cruel Sea" is a masterpiece of cinematic art.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Realistic and Moving Look at Life at Sea During WWII, 12 Dec. 2007
By 
Eddie (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Cruel Sea [DVD] (DVD)
The Cruel Sea is not a film built on heroism, stiff upper lips or cliche. Rather, it demonstrates the horror and hardships of life on an escort ship during World War II. And for a film of this era, it does so in a way which is surprisingly convincing and moving.

The script is lifted pretty well word for word from Nicholas Monserrat's novel which actually contains very little dialogue, possibly making its translation to the screen comparitively easy, although this is certainly no slur on Eric Ambler who has done a fine job in that translation. The script is delivered by a fine cast, not least the wonderful Jack Hawkins who plays a captain under whom one would, I imagine, be happy to serve. Hawkins gives the captain a strength of character but also demonstrates his vulnerbility which is exposed by the stress of his job and the decisions which he has to make. For Donald Sinden, Virginia McKenna and Denholm Elliot this was their first film and between them all they show the human side of the conflict, with its emotions and trauma. And let's not forget Stanley Baker of course.

The horrors of war at sea are well conveyed through these aspects rather than through graphic images (although the book does not shrink away from descriptions of some truly appalling horrors: see the film then read it). Occasionally let down by slightly ropey effects and the inclusion of authentic footage which is very grainy and contrasts with the crispness of the photography, the film demonstrates a realism which is reinforced by the fact that much of it was shot on a real ship. There are few post war films which deal with the war at sea and this one surely is the pick of the crop. Excellent.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the greatest war film of all time, 5 Feb. 2006
By 
It may be a bold title, but the film sets out to portray the true life of the war at sea on the North Atlantic convoy routes and does it brilliantly. It succeeds because it sticks closely to the original book by Nicholas Monsarrat, who actually was an escort commander on convoys and knows better than most what it was really like.
There is no attempt to glorify anything or vilify anyone. The Germans are portrayed as men to be hated and destroyed only because they can do their job well, and that job is to starve Britain into submission. It is just a story of ordinary men who are pushed into a situation where fear and death stalk them constantly and where they have to do horrifying things on a daily basis. There is no death or glory scenario; indeed, when death reaches them, it is often in a fairly horrible way and they are expected to die quietly and without fuss. The most memorable scene is when the commander decides to depth charge a contact which might be a U boat, despite the fact that there are survivors of a torpedoed ship in the water and they will surely die. There is a love interest too but, like so much in the war, it ends in tragedy. The enemy is the war and the cruel sea, not just the U boats.
The cast is a roll call of great character actors: Jack Hawkins as the often irascible captain, Donald Sinden as the loyal 2nd in command and includes fine performances from Denholm Elliott, Stanley Baker and a very young Richard Attenborough.
Yes, it's old and in black and white. Yes, it's dated. But it tells a story of the ordinary men who fought an unglamorous war to keep Britain fed and the brave German sailors who tried to stop them. As such, it's essential.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the greatest British War movie, 13 Feb. 2008
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This review is from: Cruel Sea [DVD] (DVD)
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.
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The Cruel Sea [Blu-ray] [1953]
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