Thursday, December 29, 2016

Movie Review: Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957) co-written and directed by John Huston

A young Marine, Corporal Allison (Robert Mitchem), washes up on the shore of a south Pacific island in the middle of World War II. The only resident is one Irish nun named Angela (Deborah Kerr) who had come to help a priest. The priest has died. The island has plenty of natural food and water, certainly enough for two people. Unfortunately, the Japanese arrive and set up a small base, forcing the soldier and the nun to hide in a cave and survive on the meagerest of supplies. Can they hold out long enough to get saved?

The story focuses on the relationship between Mr. Allison and Sister Angela. They come from very different backgrounds and have lead very different lives. Their initial awkwardness is overcome by an understanding of each other through the hardness of their vocations. Marine life requires tough discipline; a nun's vows leave off almost every earthly pleasure. Together, they experience both happiness and tension as they deal with the situation. The development of their friendship is very thoughtful, believable, and engaging.

The story has more tension than action. Allison sneaks around when the Japanese are there; he doesn't try to take them on Rambo-style, which is definitely good. American forces show up at the end of the movie and the action picks up. By that point viewers are so invested in the characters that they are more worried for the characters than they are excited to see some fighting. The balance between tension and action serves the story and the characters well.

This movie is a hidden gem among the glut of World War II movies.

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