The essential stiff-upper-lip drama stars Noël Coward, Richard Attenborough and John Mills.
Making his film debut, Attenborough is a nervous sailor who leaves his post in the middle of a battle, but otherwise the destroyer HMS Torrin is a happy ship. Chirpy cockney Mills represents the lower deck, ripely accented petty officer Bernard Miles stands for the middle ranks and, at the top, there’s posh captain Coward.
Inspired by the wartime exploits of Lord Mountbatten’s HMS Kelly, this film presents the ship and its crew as a powerful symbol of the national character. With such rigidly defined social types on duty, it does often seem as though the British class system is being celebrated as much as wartime ideals, but this is still a film filled with fine moments and it is superbly acted.
Coward also wrote the script and co-directed, bringing in then-editor David Lean to help him.