Contact me at because I'm always up for a natter about anything. Well, mostly.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Classic Film Review: Murphy's War (1971)

Starring Peter O'Toole as the title character, Murphy's War tells the story of a WWII sailor whose ship is torpedoed by a German submarine in the dying days of the war. He sets out on a mission to destroy the submarine, angering his doctor on the island he's washed up on, Dr Hayden (Sian Phillips). He engages the help of Louis Brezan (Philippe Noiret) and his boat but his plans have disastrous consequences.

I found Murphy a difficult character to like. Although his Irish charm was probably supposed to help his appeal, I couldn't appreciate a character whose motivations were so opaque. Although he seeks revenge on the U-Boat, the only real reason given is because it sank his ship. I didn't get the impression that he had good relationships with his colleagues or that he felt national pride - it was just about getting his own back. Consequently, given the results of his first attempt on the U-Boat, I would've expected him to give up in shame for what he'd brought to the island but there is no hint of this. All in all, I found him a difficult character to care about. Much more appealing was the friendly Louis, particularly at the moment the worm turns and leaves Murphy to it.

Another problem I had with this film were the lengthy sequences. Murphy has managed to fix the ship's plane but since he isn't really a pilot he has difficulty getting it off the water. What follows is a protracted scene, first of him attempting to getting it in the air and then of his flying aimlessly around the island - wasting fuel, I might add. Although it was supposed to be a spectacular 'will-he-won't-he' scene, I was bored. The same with the scene where he goes after the U-Boat in the plane: it just felt as though I was being told to watch something that I'd already seen - a man flying a plane with the same gormless expression on his face.

To be fair on this, there was a nice exploration of the German submarine attitudes after the war has ended but Murphy's own personal vendetta continues with, as I've said, no tangible reason for it. The ending is downbeat and about the only aspect of the film I appreciated.

1 comment:

29erJuliet said...

As a boy, I enjoyed the movie. I lost it after a few years until I bought the dvd. Filmed in 1971, I saw it more as an anti Vietnam war movie. We weren't behind the war as a country. It seemed senseless, the killing without a "mission". I could be totally wrong, but movies from that era, M*A*S*H and Catch 22 were Vietnam anti-war films cloaked in nostalgia.
With that said, I am not a military Vet, but am thankful for their sacrifice. They intentionally put their lives on hold for us. rtc