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During a routine patrol, a reporter is given permission to interview a a hardened cold-war warrior and captain of the American destroyer USS Bedford. The reporter gets more than he bargained for when the Bedford discovers a Soviet sub and the captain...
This sorely underrated nautical cold war thriller crept in under my radar - I had no idea beyond the basics what it was about and that is surely the best way to watch a thriller like this.
Ever reliable Sidney Poitier plays photo-journalist Ben Munceford, sent to write an article about the USS Bedford currently patrolling international waters and her uncompromisingly authoritarian Captain Findlander, played by co-producer Richard Widmark in what must be one of his best screen performances. There's great support from Martin Balsam as the new doctor, eager to contribute and out of his depth, and Eric Portman as the German commodore lending tactical support to his old enemies, and a nice little cameo from Donald Sutherland as well.
The tension ratchets up superbly as Finlander's obsessive disciplinarian, annoyed by the civilian poking around on board his ship and disobeying his orders, pursues a Russian sub that has violated territorial waters and then evades his grasp - knowing the enemy sub can only stay submerged for 24 hours he is determined to be there when it surfaces, even if that means driving his whole crew, already on a knife edge, to exhaustion. We are lucky that the Cold War is done; this film was released in 1965, just years after the Cuban Missile Crisis almost saw warheads raining down on America and Russia - the audience would have been all too aware of how close something like this could have happened. Well worth hunting down.
Cold War Moby Dick.
Moby Dick in the Cold War, The Bedford Incident reunited Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier in a tense naval procedural in which an American ship captain hunts a Soviet submarine off the coast of Greenland. Hate to compare it to Ice Station Zebra, but I will. THIS is how you do it. It's fast. It's suspenseful. The story is simple but the characters are complex. And there's no easy ending (which didn't bother me in Zebra, but I know a lot of people hated it). Widmark is our Ahab, a war hawk and strict disciplinarian who is running his crew ragged. It's a rich performance, frequently sympathetic, justified in every word and action, whether you agree with it or not. Poitier is our Ishmael, a journalist who acts as moral observer, and might even be able to keep the captain honest. The two leads resurrect the tense chemistry they created in No Way Out without actually harking back to it. And though less than 100 minutes, I still learned a lot about daily life aboard a patrol ship during this era. No fat on this uncompromising thriller.
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Currently in 2 official lists, but has been in 3