John Mills in Above Us the Waves (1955)

Mini Subs, Mini Victory

Whilst the war movies of the early 1940's were often propaganda pieces when the 50's came the war movies evolved into celebratory pieces, made to show the bravery of the men who risked their lives on various real missions. Some of these movies were outstanding but because there were so many made a lot of them ended up incredibly similar despite being based on unique missions. "Above Us the Waves" is one of those ordinary ones as it dramatizes the mission to blow up the German battleship "Tirpitz" in a Norwegian fjord. It is ordinary because sadly we have those familiar faces that appeared in a lot of war movies, the direction is solid but standard and with it being a movie aboard a submarine there are those typical submarine scenes as they encounter various problems. It's not that "Above Us the Waves" is bad, it is not, it is entertaining and solid but it doesn't stand out from the crowd.

After attempts to blow up the German battleship "Tirpitz" by air fail the Royal Navy look for ways to get the job done. Cmdr. Fraser (John Mills - The Colditz Story) believes that the can do the job using Human Torpedoes and despite scepticism from Adm. Ryder (James Robertson Justice - Anne of the Indies) proves that his men and the underwater chariots are up for the task. The first mission fails when the men are caught in neutral Sweden and are flown back to Scotland. But that doesn't deter them and upscale the mission by using midget submarines, towed across behind full size submarines.

John Gregson and Donald Sinden in Above Us the Waves (1955)

So as mentioned "Above Us the Waves" is one of those 1950's war movies which were made partly to honour the men who risked their lives but also to make the public aware of the dangerous missions which made up the war. So with that in mind this is a solid war movie which dramatizes the mission to blow up the Tirpitz. From my understanding it is pretty authentic to the true story with one major difference; the true outcome of the mission is never made clear.

But whilst "Above Us the Waves" is a solid war movie it is also a typical one and that starts with the cast with little Johnny Mills in yet another war drama. It is not just Mills as John Gregson and Donald Sinden crop up in their familiar supporting roles. It's not that any of the actors which also includes James Robertson Justice put in a bad performance but their characters lack back story which makes them ordinary, relying on the skill of the actors to make them interesting by selling the moments of drama and general camaraderie.

That leads me to the next sort of problem as whilst "Above Us the Waves" sees the men on both human torpedoes and midget submarines the sort of drama is familiar. We have close encounters, depth charges, nets to get through and so on, all the sorts of things you will see in numerous other submarine based movies. It is solid and certainly delivers the tension and claustrophobic feeling of the limited space in a submarine but it just feels too familiar with ordinary direction stopping it from coming to life. Having said that there are a handful of dramatic scenes none more so that a close encounter with a mine which has you on edge.

What this all boils down to is that "Above Us the Waves" is a solid 1950s war movie which dramatizes a real dangerous mission to blow up a German battleship. There is nothing really wrong with it but at the same time there is nothing which makes it stand out from the numerous other war movies made during the 50s.