The Caine Mutiny (Movie Review)
I saw this movie just recently, and loved it so much I thought I would do a review on it.
SPOILERS- Read only if you want to know a detailed summary or if you have seen this movie before!
TW: This post talks about mental health in the navy.
Note: The pictures in this post aren't from the movie, nor officially represent the movie. They are just visuals.
The Caine Mutiny released in 1954, based on a book by Herman Wouk, is not your typical fighting army movie. It's a more complex psychological play on the lives of naval officers aboard a ship. How the relationships between officers and captains change over the course of their time at sea. And how behaviors by the captain that are deemed as strange by the fellow officers force one officer to enact Article 184, which allows for a member of the navy to ask the captain to step down if he sees him incapable of commanding the ship, with approval from the Navy.
This movie however made me think if what the member of the crew did the right thing by enacting the article in the first place, taking into account medical terms such as mental health, paranoia, paranoid personality, etc.
To start, the movie centers on Willie Keith a Princeton grad who has joined the navy. He is close with his mother and has a girlfriend named May who works as a nightclub singer. Willie loves her but given his affluence background he doesn’t know if he should marry her, due to his fear that his mother won't approve. His character is very secondary, compared to in book and in the movie, to the characters of Steve Maryk and Roland Keefer. Their characters start the whole drama behind the plot of the movie, which will be explained below.
He meets Roland Keefer and Steve Maryk who are his cabin mates and fellow officers aboard. They all seem to be having a solid time, focusing on their duties.
Then, it is announced that their current captain, William H. De Vriess is going to step down and turn things over to a new captain, Captain Philip Francis Queeg. At first, the men warm up to their new captain. He is likeable. He tells everyone he does things by the book and he expects everyone to follow his command. That he's not a scary person and that if they want to talk to him, they can do so.
But then, certain incidents cause the men especially the three main guys (Maryk, Keefer and Keith) to question the captain's sanity. The first of them being the captain's tendency to noticing small things like crew men's shirts being untucked and proper equipment, such as hats and life jackets not being worn properly, and giving punishments for anyone who doesn't follow the proper clothing etiquette.
Other incidents include him preventing the men from watching movies, getting leisure time, and not allowing them sleep. This extremely bizarre focus on what are considered smaller issues deter the captain from focusing on important matters at hand, such as the movement of the ship and other assignments.
Another memorable incident that proves the captain's inability to give the right instructions includes his orders to throw yellow dye into the ocean instead of trying to help a landing craft (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Caine_Mutiny_(film)#Cast). This in turn causes the men to sing a song called 'Old Yellow Stain', making fun of the incident.
This alarms Keefer as he slowly starts to think something is wrong with Captain Queeg and that he perhaps has paranoia or a paranoid personality. (This is the first time I've seen a psychological medical term used in a movie, or any term relating to mental health/stability in a movie. This is definitely ahead of its times).
He voices his concerns to Maryk by saying things will keep getting worse if they don’t do something about it. Keefer is the one who brings up Article 184 of the Naval code, which I mentioned in the first paragraph, and consider the possibility that someone may have to tell Captain Queeg to step down. Maryk at first doesn't believe Keefer and tells him to stop telling him all this and to leave it be. But secretly, he starts logging all the ice cents where Captain Queeg has acted 'bizarre' and 'unfit' and is therefore not liable to serve as a Captain anymore.
The icing on the cake is when Captain Queeg calls everyone for a late night meeting involving some missing frozen strawberries. He has everyone watch as he has one of the men show how many portions of strawberries each of the men ate, by using sand as an example. He then comes to the conclusion that since there are still some leftover sand, that someone must have stolen the remaining strawberries.
He even takes this strange detective work further by asking about the keys to the ice box that held the strawberries and asking each of the men to turn over their uniform and keys to see if the ice box keys are with any of the men. The captain even asks for a formal report on the strawberry mystery, asking them to stay awake late at night and produce a report for him in the morning.
That morning, one of the men who is forced to leave early because his wife is ill, tells the three (Keefer, Keith and Maryk) that the captain in fact told him that there is no icebox key and that he knew that the stewards ate the remaining strawberries.
With all the incidents noted down, with the strawberry incident being the peak of it all, the three, (Keefer, Keith and Maryk) now convinced that something is wrong with the captain. They decide to go to the admiral to complain about having him step down. As they wait to see him, Keefer gets cold feet and tells the other two that it’s not a good idea to complain, and that they could be tried for mutiny, if they turn out to be wrong . He walks away from them. Hearing this, Keith and Maryk get cold feet too and decide to abandon their plan.
That night, a storm approachs. Captain Queeg starts getting more and more overwhelmed, staring into space and not listening to what the men are asking. He keeps insisting the men should listen to his same directions--head in the same direction as the storm, instead of turning back (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Caine_Mutiny_(film)#Cast). Maryk decides this is the last straw and enacts Article 184 in front of everyone, taking command over the next moves for the ship. This move was done without permission from the Navy or any official, and was done at the moment. This in turn causes an investigation into the matter.
The ending is quite dramatic, where a long court scene reveals why Maryk had the liberty to enact Article 184 and make Captain Queeg step down that fateful night. A lawyer (played well by Jose Ferrer) is sent to represent him, because if convicted, Maryk could be charged with mutiny. Funnily enough, Keefer, who came up with the whole idea of complain about the captain and of article 184 to Maryk, ends up stating he was 'flabbergasted' when he saw that Maryk enacted the article, proving his fear of getting involved in this case. He decided that Maryk should take the fall instead.
The climax is when Queeg takes the stand and through being questioned, exhibits his bizarre behavior, rolling three silver balls in his hands whenever agitated or nervous. Then he goes into a lengthy speech that seems to make no sense. A silence ensues.
Later, the men then celebrate Maryk's acquittal. This wasn't plainly shown but it can be implied that the court agreed with his statement of the captain's behavior and is not proven guilty of mutiny. But Maryk's lawyer knows the truth, that Keefer was the one who started this whole investigation, and throws a drink on his face, saying while he'll go out and become a famous author, Maryk would have been left hanging. Essentially, he shames him for not testifying.
This movie made me think and wonder what would a group of people do if their superior was deemed not liable to take control. Would they resort to mutiny, like in this movie, or would they give them a second chance?
It seems in this movie, Maryk, Keefer and Keith held strong opinions of Captain Queeg due to his behavior and strict protocols and weren’t willing to give him a second chance. Maryk, who considers himself perfect healthy feels that he's entitled to take control from someone else who isn't quote on quote, 'sane'.
Keefer and Keith were just puppets on the side who didn’t want to jeopardize their future by testifying to Maryk’s defense even if they agreed that the captain was not in his right mind to command them anymore.
Queeg's character was intriguing too. You feel sorry for him, you see him take control, you see him break down, and you see him at his worst- at the end, when he gives the rambling speech to the court, proving Maryk's point.
The movie was well done, especially the last forty or so minutes, with the court scene. I was strangely hooked and before I knew it, there was only twenty minutes left in the movie. Everyone acted well, especially Bogart who played the role of a paranoid man who tried to do his job and was willing to have the men like him, only to be shut down at the end.
This movie was definitely worth the Oscar nominations it got. I’d give this a 4.5/5!
https://archive.org/stream/in.ernet.dli.2015.267566/2015.267566.The-Caine_djvu.txt (Article 184 Navy regulations)