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|Richard Widmark||Captain Eric Finlander, U.S.N.|
|Sidney Poitier||Ben Munceford|
|Eric Portman||Commodore Wolfgang Schrepke, Deutsche Marine|
|James MacArthur||Ensign Ralston, U.S.N.|
The American destroyer USS Bedford (DLG-113) detects a Soviet submarine in the GIUK gap near the Greenland coast. (Specifically, they are in Greenland territorial waters at the entrance to the J.C. Jacobsen Fjord, which is due northwest from Iceland.) Although the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. are not at war, Captain Eric Finlander (Widmark) harries his prey mercilessly, while civilian photojournalist Ben Munceford (Poitier) and NATO naval advisor, Commodore (and ex-World War II U-boat captain) Wolfgang Schrepke (Portman), look on with mounting alarm. Because the submarine is not powered by a nuclear reactor, its submerged run distance is limited, critical when it also needs breathing air and to recharge its batteries. This gives Finlander an advantage, but also means the Soviets will be more desperate. Also aboard the ship are Ensign Ralston (James MacArthur), an inexperienced young officer constantly being criticized by his captain for small errors, and Lieutenant Commander Chester Potter, USNR (Martin Balsam), the ship's new doctor, who is a reservist recently recalled to active duty.Munceford is on board in order to photograph life on a navy destroyer, but his real interest is Captain Finlander, who was recently passed over for promotion to rear admiral. Munceford is curious whether a comment made by Finlander regarding the American intervention in Cuba, is the reason for his non-promotion, perhaps betraying veiled aggression. He is treated with mounting hostility by the captain because he is seen as a civilian putting his nose where it does not belong and because he disagrees with Finlander's decision to continue with an unnecessary and dangerous confrontation. Finlander is hostile to anyone who is not involved in the hunt - including the doctor, who will not stand up to the captain and advise that the pressure on the crew be reduced.The crew becomes increasingly fatigued by the unrelenting pursuit during which the Captain demands full attention to the instruments. When the sub is found and ignores Captain Finlander's demand to surface and identify itself, Finlander escalates by smashing into the sub's snorkel, calling it floating debris. Finlander then orders Bedford to arm weapons and withdraw a distance, where he will wait for the sub's crew to run out of air and be forced to surface. He reassures Munceford and Schrepke that he is in command of the situation and that he will not fire first, but: "If he fires one, I'll fire one." Ensign Ralston mistakes Finlander's remark as an order to "Fire One" and launches an anti-submarine rocket, which destroys the submarine. Their sonar detects a salvo of four nuclear-armed torpedoes coming at the destroyer. Finlander gives basic orders to evade, then goes outside. Despite Munceford's frantic pleading, Finlander does nothing more to save his ship, perhaps because he recognizes that there is no way of escaping. The film ends with still shots of various crewmen "melting" as if the celluloid film were burning as Bedford and her crew are vaporized. The last image is an iconic, towering mushroom cloud from the torpedo detonations.
DVD : 2003-09-23