War on a Plate

Anthony Quayle and Patrick Macnee in The Battle of the River Plate (1956)

Shortly after the outbreak of war in 1939 the Admiral Graf Spee under the command of Captain Langsdorff (Peter Finch) is already causing issues with its attacks on unarmed merchant ships. When Langsdorff decides to hit one more convoy before heading for home his movie is anticipated by Commodore Henry Harwood (Anthony Quayle - Buster) and between his three Royal Navy cruisers Exeter, Ajax & Achilles manage to inflict damage on the more powerful German ship. Having been forced to run the Admiral Graf Spee takes shelter in Montevideo, Uruguay whilst one of the damaged British cruisers heads to the Falkland Islands due to damage. With only two ships to try and keep the Admiral Graf Spee in harbour the Royal Navy must convince the enemy that a large force is waiting for them if they attempt to leave and keep it there long enough to bring in reinforcements.

This is hard for me to say it but "The Battle of the River Plate" did very little for me as it struggled to draw me in to the unfolding drama based on a real wartime event. The annoying thing is that it is a nicely shot movie and as I said it is based on a real wartime event and appears to be a movie which strives for accuracy rather than entertainment but if you watch war movies to be entertained then "The Battle of the River Plate" often struggles. Basically what I am saying is that "The Battle of the River Plate" is a war movie for those who are interested in historical war time events rather than for those seeking some old style entertainment from a war/action movie.

But as I said "The Battle of the River Plate" is a nicely shot movie and it is nothing less than you expect from a Powell & Pressburger movie. Between the colour and the camera angles it is a very clean and inviting looking movie with some beautiful shots of the rising sun silhouetting boats whilst also capturing the cramped conditions aboard a Navy ship. And to be honest whilst there are no stand out performances the likes of John Gregson and Anthony Quayle are solid in their parts.

The trouble is that despite having a good story "The Battle of the River Plate" is never gripping and that makes it hard work to keep interested in. It all comes down to your reason for watching and for those who hoped for a typical 1950s war drama with excitement and action are going to find it a struggle as the first half is dominated by dialogue and character interactions.

What this all boils down to is that "The Battle of the River Plate" is technically a good movie with clean imagery and nice performances. But this is a movie which is less entertaining and more informative which is not going to be for everyone.

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