The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (1988)
Following the events aboard the U.S.S. Caine when Lieutenant Stephen Maryk (Jeff Daniels - Terms of Endearment) took command of the ship as he believed Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg (Brad Davis - Chariots of Fire) was no longer in a mentally fit state to command the ship, Maryk finds himself on trial for mutiny. He also finds himself an unpopular figure with even his own defence lawyer, Lt. Barney Greenwald (Eric Bogosian - Under Siege 2), admitting he would rather be prosecuting him than trying to defend him but says he will do the best he can. The prosecution start the case with Queeg taking the stand giving his account of the events and being controlled by the prosecution lawyers to stick to the facts. Queeg is followed by various seamen and psychiatrists. And then it is the defence's turn with Maryk having been unimpressed with Greenwald's work on the first day of the trial. Maryk takes the stand to give his version of events before Greenwald recalls Commander Queeg and ferociously cross examines him, making him visually agitated.
I will stop there because I am sure there will be some who watch "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial" having never watched "The Caine Mutiny" and to say what happens would spoil this movie. And as such I should say for those who haven't watched "The Caine Mutiny", and you really should, "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial" is a dramatization of the trial which takes place at the end of the movie which writer Herman Wouk adapted from his own book in to a two act stage play. Now that does mean for those who don't know we are talking about a movie featuring a few men in a courtroom talking, telling their version of events which might not sounding exciting, but just think of the courtroom scene in "A Few Good Men" and it is by no means boring.
The thing about "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial" is that for a movie which is about people speaking in a courtroom, a make shift one in a gym; it is surprisingly not about the words. Don't get me wrong as the writing is fantastic and each character has lines which fit them, which feel unique to the person and at their level, from the short nervous words of a crewman to the longer and calmer words of one of the lawyers. But "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial" is all about the reactions of the actors to bring their characters to life be it Jeff Daniels looks off frustration and disappointment as he listens to the witness testimonies to one of those witness, you signalman Junius Urban's nervousness on the stand, the constant fiddling with his hat as he uncomfortably deals with the questions. There is also Eric Bogosian as Lt. Barney Greenwald showing his dislike for Maryk yet his business like way of going about defending him; the controlled looks as if he is just biding his time.
All of these performances are good and then there is Brad Davis who takes on the difficult task of playing Queeg, played by Humphrey Bogart in the original movie. Davis's performance may seem at times forced but it is captivating, the constant fidgeting, and the constant raising of his voice as the agitation with being questioned gets faster it just simply a wonderful example of physical acting but in a non physical movie.
What this all boils down to is that "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial" is a great courtroom movie full of fantastic performances from all involved. What I will say is that whilst it can be watched as a stand alone movie you would be best watching "The Caine Mutiny" to appreciate the cleverness of this 2 act elaboration on the courtroom scenes and appreciate the performances of the cast.
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