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‘The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial’ Review: Kiefer Sutherland and Jake Lacy in William Friedkin’s rousing final film


The last works of recently deceased artists often take on a strange patina of significance. Whether the deceased knew the work would be their last or not, it’s almost impossible not to read into it a foreshadowing of the creator’s imminent departure, a dislike for the dying out of the light, or a neat return to earlier themes .

Legendary director William Friedkin passed away on August 7 at the age of 87, just weeks after completing his last feature film, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. I don’t know if Friedkin was aware that this would be his last when he decided to make it, but in many ways it feels like a fitting artistic last word. Like so many of his other films, the film is punchy, snappy and occasionally a little screamy, but made with talent and swagger.

The Caine Mutiny Court Martial

It comes down to

Persistent and largely untouchable.

Location: Venice Film Festival (out of competition)
Form: Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Clarke, Jake Lacy, Monica Raymund, Lance Reddick, Lewis Pullman, Elizabeth Anweis, Tom Riley, Francois Battiste, Gabe Kessler, Jay Duplass
Director: William Friedkin
Screenwriters: William Friedkin, based on the play by Herman Wouk

1 hour 43 minutes

From the early days of his film career, he was drawn to theatrical material. His second feature film was an adaptation of Harold Pinter’s The birthdayparty in 1968, and that was followed by a successful transition to the Broadway hit The guys in the band (1970) and, more recently, two gripping, innovative plays by writer Tracy Letts, critter (2006) and Killer Joe (2011).

Reportedly, Friedkin had wanted to film a version of it for some time The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, which writer Herman Wouk himself adapted for the stage from his own novel in the early 1950s. The best-known version of the material is probably the 1954 film directed by Hollywood Ten blacklist member Edward Dmytryk, starring Humphrey Bogart, which expands on the more elaborate plot of the original book.

This adaptation—the action is reimagined in 2022 in place of the original’s WWII setting, and the screenplay is credited to Friedkin—updates the courtroom drama part Wouk also fleshed out for the stage. At the heart of the story is a court-martial for a naval officer named Maryk (Jake Lacy), whose decision to relieve his superior officer, Commander Queeg (Kiefer Sutherland), is viewed by the prosecution as an act of mutiny.

In classical liberal humanist style, the case is settled in favor of one group of characters, but the final moral reckoning cannot be easily reduced to a binary, black and white, guilty or not guilty verdict – an ambivalence. expressed in a grand closing speech by lawyer Greenwald (Jason Clarke). It’s not hard to say that Friedkin – a cocky character who spoke out against bigotry, prejudice and PC piety – was drawn to this nuanced drama because of its awkward conclusion, which comes with the abruptness of a drink being splashed in his face. thrown, followed by a hard cut in the credits, strangely but not unpleasantly accompanied by Boz Skaggs’ funky 1976 disco hit “Lowdown.” (Eh, okay?)

The original 1950s, concerned with means and ends, evil men who might deserve forgiveness, and righteous deeds done for wrong reasons, still emerge in this adaptation. That said, the update to a contemporary time frame has been less successful. Instead of the WWII setting of Wouk’s original preserved in the Bogart-Dmytryk film and most of the well-known stage versions (including Robert Altman’s 1988 TV movie of the play), Friedkin has the Caine sweeping for mines in the Street of Hormuz, and not the theater of war in the Pacific, in peacetime, which puts everything in a very different light.

There’s less of a life-and-death stake, and it’s not clear what triggers the shift in the period – other than giving more meaning to the diverse casting here, which might not seem realistic in a 1945 setting, given the discrimination and the outright racism in the US military services of the day. In the role of Captain Blakely, essentially the chief judge at the court-martial, Friedkin has cast the recently deceased Lance Reddick, to whom the film is dedicated. Reddick bestows the work with a performance full of gravity and intelligence. Casting Monica Raymund in the role of District Attorney Commander Challee changes the dynamic of Challee’s verbal sparring with Greenwald in all sorts of interesting ways, especially since Challee is the most ardent proponent of protocol, rules, and tradition in the play, an interesting position for a woman in the military. . But the dedicated cast is uniformly excellent and takes on the spirited courtroom clashes with style. Friedkin gets up close and personal with the cross-examination, and Lacy and Sutherland offer beautifully detailed turns.

Still, the translation to 2022 doesn’t always work in the dialogue, especially when phrases like “don’t know about Shinola” slip through the net. Most boomers don’t even know what Shinola is, and the very mention of it may evoke the unkind thought that this piece, well executed and performed as it is here, is a bit of a relic that only indirectly appeals to contemporary audiences.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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