What makes a movie a masterpiece? Thought-provoking plot? Intense action? Great acting? Masterful directing? Aesthetic cinematography? All of these combined would result in a triumph of filmmaking and if these attributes do elevate a film to being considered an all-time great then indeed, Mutiny on the bounty is a timeless masterpiece.
Released in 1935, Mutiny on the Bounty is directed by Frank Lloyd, one of the best American filmmakers of the early 20th century. Charles Laughton and Academy Award winner Clark Gable star in the flick, which was inspired by a novel of the same name. The novel, in turn, is influenced by the real-life mutiny on a ship called ‘Bounty’ against its captain, William Bligh, all the way back in 1789 (although the novel and movie’s historical authenticity is often questioned)
Don’t make any mistakes about it this is not a cruise in Cape town neither is it a yacht charter in Dubai, despite primarily being a drama film the story has its fair share of exhilarating adventure and action sequences. Combine that with fine acting and wondrous set design and you feel immersed in the plot. The film sets up an English ship crew who are treated equal, if not worse, than slaves. The ‘Bounty’ sets off from Portsmouth and heads towards Tahiti. The ship is captained by Bligh, played by Laughton, who treats his crew mercilessly whilst on the other hand the lieutenant, Fletcher Christian who is played by Gable, is more sympathetic towards the crew members and dislikes the captain’s vile and abusive methods. Eventually, Christian leads a resistance against Bligh and casts him and his loyalists off the Bounty! The Bounty, after all, is not a cruise ship like the Desert Rose, it is the personification of the British Empire’s dominance in the 18th century and how countries were rising up against the monarchy. The contrast between these two characters sets up a classic and relatable protagonist and antagonist scenario. The audience can easily pick sides and root against Bligh thanks to his sadistic actions.
The film is split in four intricately planned and brilliantly directed acts. These are before the ship sets off, on the way to Tahiti, decking off and roaming about in Tahiti and then finally the mutiny. Each act introduces pivotal characters and takes the film into new directions. On the island, the film takes a romantic turn as Christian falls in love with a local woman. Her love is one of the driving factors behind Christian finally taking action against Bligh.
This revolutionary epic set the tone for big budget movies of the future! It developed confidence in the big guns of Hollywood that even movies which are assigned huge budgets can make a profit and be considered successful. Unlike most of today’s blockbusters, Mutiny on the Bounty is an incredible movie from all sides especially on how it creates tension due to its action-packed plot, most of which occurs in the very limited space of a ship. Most movies cannot carry the tension through 2 hours and 12 minutes, as well as Mutiny on the Bounty, does whilst still catching the audience on the edge of their sets.