Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

In Which We Serve

(UK, 1942)

Noël Coward wrote the screenplay, co-directed (with David Lean), wrote the music, and probably ran around running the projectors for this film in theaters. It is one of the best movies about World War II. Co-starring is John Mills, and it marks the very first film appearance of Richard Attenborough. He plays a coward (no relation) who later redeems himself heroically.

It is the story of a ship, a destroyer, the HMS Torrin during the darkest days of the war at sea, and the way it tells the story is brilliant. At first we see it being constructed in a great montage from laying the keel to sending it sliding down the ways and into the water. Then we go to the ship at war, all very violent and relentless. Looks like just another war movie. But stick around, this is a lot more than just a movie about combat at sea. The ship is hit hard, capsizes, and sinks. The few survivors cling to life rafts as they are strafed by fucking Nazi fighters.

Then it switches to flashbacks of the lives of all the important players, from the captain down to the able seamen. It is all very moving, and it clearly was an inspiration to the Brits during that time when fucking Nazi bombers were coming over every night to slaughter civilian women and children. And it shows how Coward, as the captain, cares so deeply for the men under his command, and how much it hurts to lose his ship. In a moving scene at the end he shakes hands with each of the survivors as they are mustered out and sent to other ships. He knows all their names, and could probably tell you where their families live. It takes place mostly on the home front. Along with Hope and Glory, which we also saw recently, this ranks with the best home front movies since Mrs. Miniver.