Attenborough Goes on Desert Patrol
When you watch "Sea of Sand" now you can't but help feel like you've seen it before and that's because the underlying storyline of a dangerous mission has been used over and over again in both movies which came out before and some after. So whilst "Sea of Sand" maybe about a group of soldiers going on a mission into the sand dunes to blow up an enemy fuel dump it is no different to say "The Guns of Navarone" where men go on a dangerous mission or "They Who Dare" where you guessed it men go on a dangerous mission. And as such "Sea of Sand" follows for the most a formula of a hazard littered mission, close scrapes with the enemy, injuries and so on and so fourth. That doesn't mean it's terrible and it portrays the dangers which the men of the Long Range Desert Groups faced quite admirably as well as featuring some nice performances but it is a case of feeling like just another dangerous mission/ war movie.
A Long Range Desert Groups is sent on a dangerous mission to destroy an enemy fuel dump in the middle of the desert in preparation for a major attack. Their journey to the fuel dump is littered with hazards and when they get there they discover an unexpectedly large number of German tanks. Desperate to head back and inform intelligence of what they discovered their journey is just as hazardous especially with German's tracking them down after their fuel dump is blown up.
So as already mentioned "Sea of Sand" works to that dangerous mission formula so once the group of men leave their camp on this highly important and dangerous mission to blow up a fuel dump it is a case of a hazard littered journey. Now the hazards themselves are not that surprising mainly being close encounters and run ins with the enemy but how these men deal with it, masquerading as the enemy does make it often surprisingly amusing. But it is very obvious and so is what happens when they reach their target and you know things won't go completely smoothly as they first have to navigate a mine field. And to continue with the obvious you also know that their return journey won't be easy as well with more close encounters of the enemy kind and an injured soldier to contend with. I don't want to sound cruel but it works to a formula and as such what happens is for the most obvious and predictable.
But whilst "Sea of Sand" is obvious it is also entertaining and director Guy Green paces the movie beautifully so that it is not a case of just one hazard after another. In between we get to know the men in the group making even the most minor of characters feel like a person rather than someone who is most likely to be killed off. And at the same time you also get the drama of Captain Williams by the book ideals antagonising Captain Cotton who has been stationed in the desert for a long time. Plus whilst the moments of action are obvious they are beautifully shot making them feel surprisingly powerful especially a run in with an enemy armoured vehicle.
Where the "Sea of Sand" does come into its own is in the acting thanks to the trio of John Gregson, Michael Craig and Richard Attenborough. Both Gregson and Craig are surprisingly compelling as Captains Williams and Cotton as you watch them go from winding each other up to appreciating each others skills and perspectives. And then there is Richard Attenborough as Brody, an almost cheeky chappy, wheeler dealer character which provides plenty of laughs and watching Attenborough deliver this almost ordinary guy is just wonderful. This trio are not alone as "Sea of Sand" also features solid performances from Percy Herbert, Vincent Ball and Ray McAnally but it is the main trio which makes the movie tick.
What this all boils down to is that "Sea of Sand" whilst moving along at a nice pace and featuring good performances from John Gregson, Michael Craig and Richard Attenborough is your typical dangerous mission/ war movie which works to a formula. That doesn't mean it's terrible and is actually entertaining but there are better movies which work the dangerous mission to greater effect meaning that "Sea of Sand" ends up for the most forgettable.