Cliff Robertson and Gia Scala in Battle of the Coral Sea (1959)

a Strange Brew of Coral

After getting in some trouble when he saved some men's lives whilst putting his men in danger, Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Conway (Cliff Robertson) and his men are sent on a mission in to the Coral Sea to gain photographic evidence of Japanese aircraft carriers. But when their submarine ends up stricken Conway takes the decision to surrender and so he and his men find themselves in a Japanese prisoner of war camp where the men are soon planning their escape with the help of Karen Philips (Gia Scala), a daughter of a plantation owner who wishes to escape the area.

First of the bat I am no war expert and so when I say that "Battle of the Coral Sea" is not based on any facts is only what I have learned from other reviews some of which get quite angry that the title misleads them to think this is a dramatisation of events in the Coral Sea. And to be honest I can appreciate the frustration of those who watched hoping one thing only to realise that "Battle of the Coral Sea" ends up something completely different especially as this initially seems to be a submarine movie but turns in to a prisoner of war movie.

Patricia Cutts and Cliff Robertson in Battle of the Coral Sea (1959)

So let me tell you how "Battle of the Coral Sea" plays out. First we get some submarine drama with Conway and his men stuck on the sea bed after not only sustaining damage but finding themselves in enemy territory with the enemy knowing they are there. It is cliche stuff as is various other things which go on aboard the sub such as one of the men using the periscope to perve on women when they are in dock. But it quickly evolves and we see the men having to surrender and suddenly this submarine movie has turned into a prisoner of war movie but what we get is more cliches and the introduction of some women in the prison camp which puts a completely different spin on things but one which feels very wrong yet still feels like a cliche as romance enters the story. Basically "Battle of the Coral Sea" feels like the writers have picked 3 elements of war movies and tried to mix them in some sort of war movie strange brew.

Unfortunately this cliche driven blend of action is not the only issues which "Battle of the Coral Sea" has as sadly the acting is as routine as everything else with actors delivering everything in a forced manner rather than letting it flow naturally. It makes it a workman like war movie which has that tired feel about it, as if all those involved were a little tired of making one war movie after another and now were doing so on autopilot.

What this all boils down to is that "Battle of the Coral Sea" is not only not a war movie about the Coral Sea but it is also an extremely ordinary, cliche filled drama which comes across like some sort of strange experiment to combine elements from various war movies, failing in the process although not to the point that as entertainment it is terrible.