Dumbledore, Science Officer Ash, Dr. Zhivago, and Hannibal Lecter walk into a pub...
The SS Britannic sets sail while a tiny third-rate bomb is diffused in a posh art gallery. A man answers a phone after pouring Rice Krispies for a screaming toddler, and then future cinema legends gather to stop a rather dumpy ocean liner from getting blown up by a very clever bomber indeed. And Roy Kinnear couldn't sing worth a damn (probably by design). And believe it or not after reading all that, it all comes together.
directed by Richard Lester
written by Richard DeKoker and Alan Plater
starring Richard Harris, David Hemmings, Omar Sharif, Anthony Hopkins, Freddie Jones, Roy Kinnear, Shirley Knight, and Julian Glover
How is it?
If you don't mind just about everyone you see having '70s hair, then you will likely enjoy it. Made almost forty years ago, it really has aged remarkably well.
The cast makes this one interesting to watch. In addition to the star power listed above, there are supporting and bit players scattered throughout, who are pretty familiar faces to even probably casual moviegoers. But the big star, of course, is Richard Harris, and in this he's doing what he does best. Lieutenant Commander Anthony Fallon is a disarmingly casual, witty, intelligent, and wily ace of the Royal Navy bomb disposal squad, and as him Harris absolutely steals the show when he's on screen. Holm, Sharif, Hopkins, Jones, and the rest do well in their respective supporting roles. David Hemmings gets as close to sharing the spotlight as possible during his time on screen, and he and Harris have real chemistry. They all do, and it makes it fun to watch.
Behind the Camera
Richard Lester, the man who made films with Peter Sellers and The Beatles and who directed the two 1970s Muskateers films and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum!, directed Juggernaut. It has a raw, natural visual quality that comes across effectively. It's tightly directed, though its look, texture, and lighting generally make it look more like a tv movie than a feature, particularly it being shot all on location, not on studio sets. The scenes taking place down in the bowels of the ship were actually filmed right in the various corridors below decks of an ocean liner at sea, and the scenes in offices and temporary command centers were filmed on location. That's part of the edge the film keeps throughout, that well-lit and photographed naturalism.
The script isn't stellar, but it's solid. It provides everything the audience needs, and the story as it unfolds will keep you guessing. There are a few oddities along the way, almost certainly due to the a heavy rewriting of the script prior to production, but they don't get in the way of anything. There's an underlying anti-establishment attitude running throughout the whole thing, but it doesn't get preachy, as a lot of tv and movies of that decade did. It's in the characters, what they say and do, which is better than being handed platefuls of exposition.
This was a surprise by me tonight as I scanned my video streaming queue and suggestions. The cast list got my attention, and then it got better from there over the course of the next hour and a half. Juggernaut isn't a classic, but it is certainly a solid, enjoyable film.
Renting it or buying a copy of it will be money well spent.