The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial

A worthy final chapter for the late great William Friedkin.

The passing of filmmaker William Friedkin hasn’t gone out with a whimper. He has left a legacy on the world with masterpieces like “The Exorcist” and “To Live and Die in L.A.” His last film the latest film version of Herman Wouk’s novel “The Caine Mutiny,” which he adapted into a 2-act stage play entitled “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.”

Before I saw the new version, I had to watch the 1954 “Caine Mutiny” with Humphrey Bogart as LCDR Phillip Francis Queeg, who may or may not be suffering from paranoia. It takes place on the destroyer minesweeper known as the Caine, during WWII. During a typhoon, LT Steve Maryk (Van Johnson) relives Queeg of his duties and takes command of the ship, while NES Willie Keith (Robert Francis) supports him. The U.S. Navy captain accuses them of mutiny, and that’s why these two are on trial.

In the new version, set in 2022, Keifer Sutherland plays Queeg, Jake Lacy plays Maryk, Jason Clarke plays Maryk’s lawyer Greenwald, Tom Riley plays Keith, Monica Raymund plays the prosecutor Commander Katherine Challee, and Lance Reddick, who also passed away this year and still lives strong, plays the head judge Captain Luther Blakely.

We all know the crew did the right thing of relieving Queeg, so they can survive the storm. We also know he sets off strict rules on the ship, and that other issues regard movies, internet, strawberries, and cheese, and so forth. But we’re also eager to know if he will finally wake up and realize his faults. I can’t say for sure, because various versions choose different directions.

A few years ago, I didn’t care for the WWII movie “Greyhound,” which also took place on a destroyer. It would have been entertaining, if only it had a story and less CGI effects to work with. When I saw “The Caine Mutiny,” the storm sequence required a model ship, which I thought was amazing. Remember that was back in 1954, when CGI effects never existed, when things can be practical, and when movies were allowed to be movies.

“The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial” chooses to act like the 2-act play, and not like a movie. That means we don’t get to see a new typhoon sequence, and that means we don’t get to see CGI effects. Quite refreshing, I must say.

Does it top the 1954 classic? No, because it doesn’t really have the kind of sparkle that director Edward Dmytryk and producer Stanley Kramer brought to it. But is it a worthy final chapter to Friedkin’s career. You better believe it. Because he chooses a great cast, who are able to use dialogue with the right convictions, and he chooses to make the play version, instead of showing us the cyclone scene. It would have been less than thrilling as how that model ship was attacked in the classic. But this is a talking picture adjusted quite well for the 2020s.

Sutherland gives the best performance in the movie, especially when he makes his courtroom speeches that resonate with Jimmy Stewart’s in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” or Jack Nicholson’s in “A Few Good Men.” Clarke delivers a fine performance with his built and dialogue, especially with his closing monlogue. And both Reddick and Raymund have the right kind of searing vibes.

We’re always going to remember Friedkin and Reddick for what they have respectively brought to the entertainment world, and “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial” is definitely something to see if you miss them. I know I do.

Rating: 3 out of 4.

Streaming on Paramount+ and Showtime

This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA strike.

Categories: Drama, War

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: