Reviewed by: Charity Bishop
ships in the Bible
Starring: Edward Atterton, Amanda Ryan, Jacqueline Bisset, Ben Daniels, John Rhys-Davies | Directed by: Brian Trenchard-Smith | Produced by: Bud W. Brutsman, Paul Colichman, David Forrest, Mark Harris, Judith Hunt, Stephen P. Jarchow, Beau Rogers, Meinir Stoutt | Written by: Dennis A. Pratt, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Kim Owen Smith, Brett Thompson | Distributor: Fox Family Channel/Regent Entertainment
The RMS Titanic was not the only one of the White Star Line’s ships to meet a cruel fate at the bottom of the sea. Her sister ship Olympic collided with a submarine but survived. Britannic, the third and largest of the remodeled ships, was not so fortunate. In the winter of 1916, while the war raged heavily between Germany and England, the cruise liner was turned into the largest and most magnificent hospital ship on the high seas. Historically, this story is obviously fiction. But it makes for a good telling anyway as to why Britannic may have been torpedoed on its way to Cairo.
It has been four years since the death of Titanic in the North Atlantic. With the arrival of the war between Germany and England, many cruise liners have been temporarily made into Red Cross ships. Britannic is one of them. She’s being sent to Cairo to pick up a transport of wounded soldiers. But one of her few passengers is Lady Lewis, a wealthy socialite traveling with her two children to Greece, where she will meet her husband. Accompanying them is Vera Campbell, her governess… and also a secret agent for British Intelligence. The Admiralty believes that there may be a German spy on board ship. Vera has been sent to sniff him out. But little does she know that she’s falling in love with him.
The evening before the sailing, the ship’s chaplain is detained and murdered in Southampton. Assuming his place is the tall, dark, handsome, and sinister foreign agent, who immediately falls into favor with captain, crew, and Vera Campbell. He unknowingly befriends her and the children while conducting his investigation into whether or not Britannic is violating the rules of war and carrying ammunition in her cargo areas. As a hospital ship, she is not allowed to transport weapons to the troops on the front. Any ships suspected may be torpedoed if they cross into foreign waters.
If she is carrying the illegal cargo, his orders are to take her… or sink her. But Britannic is the largest ship in the world. Titanic was an oversight… all of her flaws have been corrected with watertight bulkheads that go up five more decks, infallible lifeboat drills, and tight security. To sink her would be virtually impossible. And he has no idea that he’s fighting someone whom he’s become attracted to. The lines are drawn, the sides unclear. Vera can trust only a few select people… the captain, his First Officer Townsend, and Lady Lewis’ doctor. Or can she trust any of them? Because when all is said and done, they may each wear a mask.
Britannic was an attempt to make a small profit off of “Titanic”’s success and the interest raised toward the three ill-fated sister ships of the White Star Line. It is mostly a story of intrigue and violence, but is also a story of personal struggle… even a romance. However, the romance cannot ever be enjoyed knowing that Chaplain Reynolds is a German assassin. Rather than creating that warm, fuzzy feeling when they spend time together, you get a loathsome feeling of dread, knowing that any minute now the truth is going to come out and then it will get sticky. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen until after they’ve spent the night together in a foreseen and “fast getting old” plot twist.
The similarities of the ship, even some of the computer renderings of the vessel, are taken right out of Cameron’s film. But where Cameron excelled at least in special effects, this director had less to work with here and the visual effects of the ship sailing and sinking are embarrassingly fake. At least the plot works. It gives us some believable and empathetic characters and dialogue while building up Vera’s past little by little to give her more of a personality. Even after knowing Reynolds is the enemy, she risks her life to safe his. “See, that’s the difference between us,” she says. “You would let me die. I can’t do that.”
Even Reynolds himself, who is shown to be cruel, merciless, and cold, takes a surprising turn on the side of humanity to save a child… and ultimately makes a heroic self-sacrifice. In doing so, he becomes not the cold-blooded killer, but a human being. It’s a twist that’s not often taken but when made right gives the viewer a little more to ponder than the thought that all villains are rotten through and through. It’s also fun to watch First Officer Townsend at first mock Vera because she’s a woman, then later grow more warm toward her and even let a few romantic sparks fly. The last shot of the film was touching as she sat huddled up against him in the lifeboat.
Obviously fake computer animation and poor costuming aside, the film has a lot of violence in it. Numerous men are shot and killed with sometimes bloody effects. A man has his neck snapped. A German terrorist hits a man repetitively with his revolver. Blood is seen on objects and dead bodies; Vera at the climax follows bloody handprints into the bowl of the ship. A man’s hand is cut with a knife in a struggle. There are several explosions in and around the ship; a submarine is hit and collapses to the bottom. Several drowned bodies are shown underwater. One disconcerting scene that isn’t graphic but more horror-rendering due to the nature of the violence is when a lifeboat is unable to get away from Britannic’s undertow. The lifeboat and its occupants are thrown directly into the path of the propellers and presumably sliced into pieces. (This is a historical fact.)
Language isn’t really a problem (a scattering of minor profanities and a few mild abuses of deity) but sensuality is. Vera comes into Reynolds’ room late one night and undresses… which is even more unthinkable, considering that she believes him to be a chaplain. He helps her remove her shirt and brief upper nudity (from the side and possibly reflected in the mirror) is seen before they touch and kiss. This is the proverbial fly in the pudding. Otherwise the film would be worthwhile, since many people can overlook violence. But this unfortunate scene makes the rest of the film unbelievable and disappointing.
Considering the role he is asked to play as a chaplain, Reynolds actually does a masterful job of deceiving people. He comes up with some surprisingly correct answers toward spiritual questions that are asked of him. Does God approve of war? Would something that I did make God punish my child? Must war always be impartial? Even though the right answer comes from the lips of a cold-blooded assassin, they are truth. I guess it just goes to show that God can speak truth through anyone… even the lowest of them all.