In Which We Serve (1942)



This is a review about a ship, and the movie that brought its audience to the front lines of what that ship and its crew went through.

The HMS Torrin is a British Destroyer that saw more than its fair share of battles in World War II.  In the Battle of Crete, though, it is sunk by the German Air Force.  As a dozen crew members including the captain wait with a life raft to be rescued, each person has a flashback related to the ship.  From its commissioning to numerous battles, the evacuation of Dunkirk, and eventual demise, In Which We Serve follows the crew through the years of the Torrin’s service.  It also goes through a number of the crew members home life and how it evolves through time.

A strength of this film, which was no doubt a bit of British propaganda (with good purpose), is that it allows the audience to get into the life and thought process of the British Royal Navy crewman.  At the time of its release, it is relate-able to the common citizen, and offers hope as the films epilogue reassures that they are not done fighting, they will press on, and they will win.

I must admit I really struggled with this one at first.  I watched the first 30 minutes at the end of a long day, and battled with staying awake through it.  Having had a night’s sleep, watching the rest of the film was much easier.

A movie like In Which We Serve, which was filmed and released during World War II, makes for some interesting contextual considerations.  The story is based on the HMS Kelly, which had been sunk in the Battle of Crete in 1941.  Joel Coward, one of the film’s directors, screenwriter, and producer, was very good friends with the captain of the Kelly Lord Louis Mountbatten.  Coward based his performance largely on Mountbatten, even quoting from Mountbatten’s addresses to his men.  This kind of realism and faithfulness to the source material makes for an engaging, enjoyable, realistic film.

In Which We Serve is a film where brute honesty and a unifying symbol both inform and inspire the audience.  In a time where World War II hadn’t quite turned in the Allied Forces favor, this patriotic biopic gave the people something to look to with hope.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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