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  • Nate Adams

'The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial' review: Friedkin’s final movie offers a tense courtroom drama

Courtesy of Showtime


Marking both the final directorial effort of the great (late) William Friedkin and one of Lance Riddick’s final performances, the remake of the 1954 classic “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial” comes with some heightened, almost unfair expectations. Luckily, it’s a sturdy, impeccably acted courtroom drama that’s more than deserving of being in the same league of “A Few Good Men.” There’s nothing flashy here and Friedkin blocks it like you’d see it on the stage, making the most of the barebones, one location setting where people monologue to the camera for nearly two hours. 

While he’s no Humphrey Bogart, Keifer Sutherland brings some flair to the essential role of Captain Queeg, the PTSD stricken officer who’s sanity and morals are put into question after his ship, during a major storm near the Persian Gulf, is overtaken by first officer Steve Maryk (Jacky Lacy) and various crewmembers. The timelines of events are unspooled through witness testimony and it’s up to the audience to ascertain who is telling the truth. Leading Maryk’s defense is Barney Greenwald (Jason Clarke - continuing his lawyer hot-streak post “Oppenheimer") with a vigorous, calculated tenacity and an unwavering moral code that’s being pushed to its limits. 

Elsewhere, Riddick adds levity as the presiding judge who is responsible for getting all the facts straight, which often involves questioning witnesses and having zero tolerance for BS. Again, most of the drama hinges on dialogue and performance, not to mention subtle camera movements that essentially behave as a character all on its own. The wide angle shots and close-ups give the viewer an intimate portrait of the drama as it unfolds and inserts them into the proceedings like a juror who will deliver a verdict. 

Friedkin was a master at creating suspense and terror and directed a wide variety of films, including “The Exorcist” and “The French Connection” obviously, and though “The Caine Mutiny” is getting a rather muted streaming release, it’s still emblematic of stories he wanted to tell: That of the human conscious and the lengths people are willing to go for something beyond themselves. It might not be the blockbuster send-off fans may have wanted, but something tells me Friedkin wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. 

Grade: B+ 

THE CAINE MUTINY-COURT MARTIAL is now streaming on Paramount+ with Showtime. 


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