After their ship sinks, two dozen survivors try to stay alive in a small lifeboat meant for nine people. The lifeboat’s Captain, played by Tyrone Power (The Black Swan), suddenly realizes that the numbers don’t add up so he starts throwing people off the boat.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“Why are the wicked always so strong?”
Does the good of the many outweigh the good of the few? The question is put to the test here, but even Mr. Spock would have had problems with the film’s interpretation of a cornerstone of logical thought. Abandon Ship is a harrowing thriller that asks incredibly difficult questions about ethics and self-preservation.
Tautly directed by Richard Sale (The White Buffalo), Abandon Ship presents a fascinating moral dilemma. The Captain of a sunk ship coldly decides who should live and who should die in hopes to secure the survival of the majority. Does the end justify the means? Is the Captain’s brand of natural selection ethical? These difficult questions are explored with intelligence and brutal honesty.
Abandon Ship is set entirely in a lifeboat. Despite being a one-set movie, director Sale, who also wrote the fine screenplay, does a shockingly good job sustaining interest. Plus, all the technical elements are top-notch — excellent camerawork, cunning editing and clever visual effects help turn an admittedly simple premise into an unbearably intense and heart-wrenching drama. Characters are well-developed too.
Tyrone Power, who also co-produced the movie, is dynamite as the ruthless Captain. He’s merciless yet oddly sympathetic. Power conveys superbly his character’s internal struggles. It’s too bad that he died not long after making the movie — he was only 44 years old — because he had started to take on more challenging roles.
Power heads a fantastic group of character actors. The excellent supporting cast includes Lloyd Nolan (Peyton Place) as Captain Frank Kelly, Stephen Boyd (Ben-Hur) as Will McKinley, Moira Lister (The Cruel Sea) as Edith Middleton and Finlay Currie (Great Expectations) as Mr. Wheaton. It’s definitely a superb ensemble cast.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
While not as stylishly directed as Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, Abandon Ship is interesting and suspenseful. The film resists passing any kind of judgment — viewers are asked to draw their own conclusions. Incredibly, the film was inspired by a real-life incident that occurred in the 19th century. The story was previously told in the 1937 film Souls at Sea. Remade in 1975. B&W, 97 minutes, Not Rated.