Cult film: Sink the Bismarck! is the best of British war cinema

Sink the Bismarck!

LEWIS Gilbert is perhaps best known for his remarkable work on the Bond film franchise (You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker were all his) and self-sufficient beauties like Alfie, but in the late 1950s and in the early ’60s he cut his director’s teeth on a series of war features that were both groundbreaking and exciting in their low-key ways.

Sink the Bismarck! from 1960 is a perfect example of Gilbert’s ability to tell a story of global conflict in an intimate and engaging way. A fictional tale of the real-life history of one of WWII’s most notorious naval battles, it remains one of the greatest British war films ever made.

Announced in 1939 and finally launched in North Atlantic waters in 1941, it was a game-changer in the conflict between the Germans and the Allies. Nazi Germany’s largest battleship, the Bismarck was the beast of battle, the weapon that dominated any ship that dared to face its mighty firepower. Faced with his impressive might, British forces had to scramble to try and find a tactical way to bring him down.

In the spring of 1941, an opportunity presented itself when the Bismarck found itself stranded at its anchorage in Norway. Making a desperate attempt for freedom under the guise of the Luftwaffe, the tall ship is hunted down by the Royal Navy, led by the Chief of Operations, Captain Jonathan Shepard (Kenneth More) and WRNS Second Officer Anne Davis (Dana Wynter) .

By sheer luck, Gilbert was able to secure the full cooperation of the Admiralty, who was just in the process of withdrawing an entire fleet of WWII ships at the time of production. As a result, we can see the rarest goodies from war movies – real historical story taking place on real ships with real guns. This authenticity adds to the harshness of the story and this rare sense of reality combined with excellent model work makes the sea sequences particularly memorable and groundbreaking.

As always, Kenneth More is a good avuncular leader who struggles with conflict in typical stiff upper lip fashion, gleaming well alongside Dana Wynter as the Second Officer in crafting his plan for victory.

There is a refreshing emphasis on the men who are left at home, again an unusual thing for an old war movie to zoom in on, and even the Germans, so often seen in such films as war merchants. cold-hearted and super efficient. , appear as believable human figures caught in a terrible conflict.

Placed alongside The Cruel Sea or Dam Busters, it is the best of British war cinema. Shot in crisp black and white, it may lack the sparkle of some of its contemporaries, but there is a purposeful honesty to this film that sets it apart from the sailor crowd.

Sleek, tense, and at times truly thrilling, this is a film that calls for a modern remake.

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