The Caine Mutiny, Edward Dmytryk (1954)

That’s more like it. Dmytryk here rassles Herman Wouk’s enormous novel into a taut two hours, and, in the character of Lt. Steve Maryk, offers for our consideration a specimen of that most piteous creature: The honorable person who comes to believe he must do wrong in order to do right. Van Johnson is not a great actor, and Bogart is, so the audience’s attention very naturally gravitates toward Captain Queeg. We’re further distracted by Lt. Maryk’s callow sidekick Ensign Keith, the cynical novelist Lt. Keefer, and the bitter attorney Greenwald who enable, provoke, and resent Maryk, respectively. In fact, when you think about it, it’s passing strange that Maryk, upon whose act of insurrection the plot pivots, barely takes up any space in the movie at all. That may, though, be just right. These events comprise the most important in Maryk’s life, but for everyone else — the exhausted veteran, the irresponsible intellectual, the fastidious judges, the ambitious kid, the self-loathing lawyer — he’s merely an example, a screen upon which to project their versions of how things are and how they should be. No one cares about the Maryks of the world; we care only about how to represent their actions in such a way as to advance our own agendas. I’m on the very brink of saying something about Megan Ambuhl right here, but I’m not going to do it, I can see the logic but I can’t feel it to be true. Or should I say, I can’t find a way to fit it into my agenda.

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