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The Cruel Sea Review

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At the start of World War II, Cmdr. Ericson is assigned to convoy escort HMS Compass Rose with inexperienced officers and men just out of training. The winter seas make life miserable enough, but the men must also harden themselves to rescuing survivors of U-Boat attacks, while seldom able to strike back. Traumatic events afloat and ashore create a warm bond between the skipper and his first officer

★★★★

World War II sea saga following the fortunes of the crew of HMS Compass Rose, a corvette dispatched for its maiden duties protecting convoys in the cruel North Atlantic in 1940.

It's a straightforward retelling of the Nicholas Monsarrat novel peppered with youthful talents who grew up to be stars: watch for Denholm Elliott, Stanley Baker and Donald Sinden in particular. However, Jack Hawkins steals the top honours with his moving portrayal of the captain's wartime dilemma: commanding individuals as a crew and putting the protection of his and other vessels even above the lives of men found floating in the water (the first sub-hunting sequence when he does just that is a killer) and perfectly illustrates that this is a war film more concerned with human tragedy than glorifying combat.

Brave WWII film with outstanding performances all round.

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