Expertly executed British disaster movie/thriller
www.DavidLRattigan.com | United Kingdom | 05/09/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a deftly handled thriller from veteran director Richard Lester. It inevitably begs comparison with movies of the ilk of The Poseidon Adventure, which is worthy in its own way, but this is in a far superior class. Its Britishness is its real asset - it avoids the schmaltzy, soapy feel of its American forebears in the world of disaster epics. Romantic elements of the story are treated with a grittiness that eschews all melodramatics. The psyches of the characters are not explored in depth, but are nevertheless flesh-and-blood characters, and we never get the feeling that their development is sacrificed to the suspense (of which there is plenty). In a supporting role as the ship's entertainments officer, Roy Kinnear elicits much pathos; Shirley Knight is affecting in a similarly tragic minor role, as the longsuffering mistress of captain, Omar Sharif, whose performance is merely satisfactory next to excellent star turns by (a young) Anthony Hopkins and Richard Harris. Film buffs will also delight in spotting a few other vintage British character actors in among the big names: Michael Hordern, Freddie Jones, Ian Holm and Julian Glover to name a few.The pace is near-perfect (this is textbook film-making), never lagging or threatening to become tedious. The editing works to create maximal tension at just the right moments; the photography has a grainy and often extemporaneous documentary feel to it (some of the more seemingly spontaneous shots reminded me of Schlesinger's Midnight Cowboy, however distant a comparison that might appear). Both editing and camerawork function effectively to hold interest and attention. Ken Thorne's score is subtle and in keeping with the tone of the film. In sum, this is an exciting and dramatic thriller, competently pulled off by a skilled company of talents."
Is it the blue wire...or the red wire...
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 04/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"With the ever present ticking of a clock and nerve-wracking machine noises in the soundtrack, this is a taut, nifty disaster thriller, with the cruise ship HMS Britannic sailing to America, unknowingly with 7 bombs hidden aboard, set to explode; they have multiple booby traps, and the saboteur wants not only money but revenge against the system that in his twisted mind feels slighted him.
The cast is great, with Richard Harris as the head of a demolition team, David Hemmings as his right-hand man, Omar Sharif as the ship's captain, and Anthony Hopkins as the man in charge of finding the bad guy (whose wife and children are aboard the ship); Shirley Knight, Ian Holm, and Roy Kinnear round out the cast.
The direction by Richard Lester, better known for his comedic musical films with The Beatles and not thrillers, is fast paced, with some superb effects; I especially like the suspenseful moments when the demolition crew arrives on the scene, parachuting into the stormy sea.
The screenplay by producer Richard DeKoker is intelligent, raising this film up from the average production in this genre, and the cinematography by Gerry Fisher excellent. The score by Ken Thorne is also good, but mostly one can only hear the tick...tick...tick...of the bomb.
Total running time is 109 minutes.
Overlooked Disaster Film of 1974 showcases British Actors
Kirk Groeneveld | Athens, OH United States | 02/14/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A taught tense adventure of a mad bomber who holds an oceanliner for ransom after he plants a series of bombs aboard. The villian is known, as each bomb has a signiture style. Richard Harris leads the team who attempt to defuse the bombs, only somewhat successful. As the countdown continues, the tension mounts, and it becomes more a cat and mouse game between the bomber and the police expert as they debate whether to cut the red or the blue wire. The final minutes are excrusiating.I saw this on the big screen in 1974 and could convince no one to go to a free showing in Lansing, Michigan with me on a Sunday afternoon. An overlooked gem, I recall this film fondly. The plot is somewhat predictable, but Richard Harris is surrounded with major British actors who give good support to this tension filled adventure. Try it. It has to be better than any of the US dissaster picts of the period."