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In Harm's Way

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Reviewed by: Trail Reeves

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
165 min.
Year of Release:

This star studded movie is worth adding to any serious video collection. Stars include John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Patricia Neal, Henry Fonda, and a host of other faces one will readily recognize.

The movie proceeds from the hours just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor through the ensuing months. Kirk Douglas turns in a powerful performance as a Navy commander who struggles with the loss of his family and a continuing battle with alcohol. John Wayne is his usual great self as a Navy Captain trying to re-establish a relationship with a son he hasn’t seen in 20 years.

The storyline moves along briskly and the 2½ hours fly by. You will laugh, cry, and cheer as the story unfolds in this human drama.

There is some war related violence, but no gore. There is some alcohol use in a social setting, and John Wayne has a sexual encounter with Patricia Neal, but nothing is shown. (Let’s hear it for leaving things to an audience’s imagination!) Still, I recommend renting or purchasing this video. It is more than just another WW2 hero movie. The cast alone makes this a collector’s dream.

Viewer Comments
Positive—In Harm’s Way is a very complex film and has elements that would both horrify and endear Christians to it. It has long been one of my favorites, and I often use it in conversations to point out some of what has gone wrong with our culture. The film begins with a shocking scene of a drunk woman performing a “pole dance” trying to tempt men into adultery (and she succeeds). As much as I love this film, I find the scene difficult to watch and often fast forward past this if able. Yes, the plot does contain rape, suicide, alcohol, infidelity, lying politicians and a father (John Wayne) who abandons his wife and son because they were in-compatible with his naval career. However, to a viewer who is well aware that these evils exist in the world, a lot of comfort can be taken in the stoic way this film deals with these problems. Lessons can be learned from the way evil is resisted, and also how some of the characters have failed to resist it. Having served in the Navy, I find the script writing to be fantastic. In one scene, Wayne’s ship is struck by a torpedo. After getting the damage report, Wayne orders Carroll O'Conner to inform Pearl Harbor that they are turning back. Carroll O'Conner’s character, CDR. Burke protests, “you mean… break radio silence?” In a bridge filled with smoke, and seamen working at a frenzied pace to save the ship, Wayne impatiently replies, “Burke! I think the Japanese know WHERE WE ARE!”

Best of all, it is the way that John Wayne’s character hold’s private information private that I wish our current day media could adopt. John Wayne becomes aware of Kirk Douglas’s rape, and the suicide of his victim. Kirk Douglas knows he is about to be discovered, and so he chooses to fly a suicide mission. After he radioes details of the Japanese strength and position, he is killed. In the radio room, Burgess Meredith suggests to John Wayne that Douglas should get a medal for his sacrifice. All in the room are shocked when Wayne refuses to recommend Douglas for the medal. Says Wayne: “For what ever reason he did it, it wasn’t for the medal.” The virtue here is that Wayne does not yield to the demons of gossip. He allows for people to believe that we can and should live life heroically. This virtue is repeated and supported in other scenes. John Wayne by demonstrates what Thumper teaches the smaller children “If you can’t say some thing nice, don’t say nothin' at all.” This response to gossip is an over looked point, and the world would be a better place if we handled it like John Wayne did. The bottom line is: Review this film yourself before you show it to your children, there are unpleasant surprises, but you may agree with me that it has great value for Christians as well.
Eric Woolhiser, age 30
Negative—…I have to differ with your recommendation of this film. It is not a positive family film at all. The opening scene is full of sensuality and adultery. The star—John Wayne—has an adulterous affair with a nurse he never marries. The co-star, Kirk Douglas, is an alcoholic and a rapist. After the rape scene, the girl commits suicide. Like so many films of the 1960’s, this film is dedicated to portraying a nation with no moral base, and without faith. Even the portrayal of the military is highly negative. You can find far better ways to spend 2½ hours.
James English