The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial
William Friedkin, one of the greatest directors of all time, sadly passed away some time ago, but his legacy still lives on. In The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, he offered us one final and provocative courtroom escapade.
Kiefer Sutherland plays captain Queeg, an old-timer relieved of command by the accused, lieutenant Stephen Maryk (Jake Lacy). Seemingly, Maryk had his reasons for that – he believed that Queeg was not mentally capable of serving such a role – but was he actually right? As Friedkin and his team try to show different truths, viewers will, throughout the trial, reconsider every character’s role. Interestingly, Sutherland draws from the performance of Humphrey Bogart in the classic adaptation of 1954, and reminds us of a sharp and unfrightened figure covering something about his own character. It’s one of the finest performamces of his entire career, as Sutherland proves he’s not only an action hero.
Even as it’s all about Sutherland’s performance (he steals the show, despite his role being a supporting one), we cannot forget Jason Clarke’s impact on the project. In Christopher Nolan’s superb Oppenheimer, Clarke demonstrated he is deserving of leading roles, and that he can readily find himself as either accuser or defendant in a film trial – which might be why watching him in Friedkin’s courtroom drama is so delightful. With his aplomb, Clarke makes this job look so “cool” and classy.
The film’s plot, based on both the play and the book, at times feels like a philosophical journey into various issues corresponding with the modern American system. The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial considers a contrast between individual freedom and the way one is treated by their official supervisor. In addition, it shows how a small lie might affect an entire trial, and even rewrite its future. The relevance of all these elements is clear in the narrative’s turning point: Jason Clarke’s climatic monologue that elucidates how the same event can be read from various points of view. Furthermore, the production is delivered in a theatrical and cameral style, the action taking place practically in one place – the courtroom – and relying on the performances.
It’s a pity that Friedkin wasn’t there to experience his latest success in Venice, where the audience received it very well. Even so, the director has left a stunning cinematic legacy, amid which this last film brings engrossing drama with pre-planned timing and intense, powerful conception. There is nothing else needed from a proper legal drama.
The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Venice Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Venice Film Festival website here.