The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1954) starring Michael Redgrave, Dirk Bogarde, Anthony Steel, Nigel Patrick, Bonar Colleano, James Kenney directed by Lewis Gilbert Movie Review

The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1954)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Michael Redgrave and Dirk Bogarde in The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1954)

Unsung Heroes Show Steel

"The Sea Shall Not Have Them" is a war movie but not one about battles or killing the enemy. Nope this is one of those war movies which takes a look at one of the unsung heroes of World War II the Air-Sea rescue. And to be honest as a look at the work that the men did in being part of Air-Sea rescue it is good, it manages to deliver a mix of drama at sea with personal issues whilst taking in the various characters that operated aboard the rescue boats. At the same time we get the 4 men on a dinghy who they are trying to rescue and we witness how the weather and isolation leads to illness and despair. The only trouble is that to lighten the mood we have moments of humour such as a wet behind the ears medic who is accident prone and it alters the tone of the movie too much.

Now what is surprising is that considering that "The Sea Shall Not Have Them" is basically a look at what the men of the Air-Sea rescue faced during the war that there is an actual storyline. That storyline is though slim because we have 4 men in a dinghy after they were forced to ditch their plane into the North Sea and hope to be rescued. We also get with this Air Commodore Waltby who has crucial military documents in a briefcase making their rescue all the more important. Thankfully whilst it is a very slim storyline it is enough to then explore the work of Air-Sea rescue whilst leading us to a dramatic finale.

Anthony Steel as Flying Officer Treherne in The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1954)

Now as such we have the men aboard the boat 2561 who are trying to locate these lost men, scouring the sea as no exact location can be found. We realise that aboard the boat we have a variety of characters, from laid back officers to an almost cliche Corporal who shouts at people in a sarcastic tone. But we do see how what almost seems like aimless searching can lead to boredom and mistakes as the men suffer the monotony of the open sea. And we do also see how being out at sea for hours upon end can affect their marriages and relationships back home, not that it is an in-depth exploration but highlights these issues.

Whilst we get to appreciate what the men aboard the boat had to contend with we also get to see how being stranded in a dinghy affects the men. We see how dealing with the cold, the water lapping into the dinghy and the hours of not being able to do anything constructive leads men to the edge of despair. Again it is not an in-depth look at the situation but highlights what the men who were forced to ditch their planes faced as they hoped to be rescued.

But the annoyance of "The Sea Shall Not Have Them" is the moments of humour which are thrown in and in particular those which comes from wet behind the ears medic Milliken. From being clumsy to not being use to being at sea right through to his comical setting fire to the boats kitchen it all feels out of place. Maybe director Lewis Gilbert wanted to lighten the tone by having this character who is a bit foolish but for me it is too much. And sadly what is also too much are the moments of over acting which unfortunately usually come from one person Dirk Bogarde as Flight Sgt. MacKay

What this all boils down to is that "The Sea Shall Not Have Them" is a good look not only at the work, the issues and personal drama of the Air-Sea rescue during WWII but also how it felt for those stranded at sea. But it does have issues from out of place humour to over acting which end up dragging it down.