It is clear from The Cruel Sea that the sea is indeed cruel and that war is, as we suspected, hell. Putting them together makes for a ‘choppy’ ride for the protagonists aboard the Compass Rose, not least, Jack Hawkins’ man in charge, Ericson.
If this wasn’t all bad enough they come home briefly and realise things aren’t exactly peachy there either, so return to sea where everything is as it was; cold, wet, u-boat ridden and very miserable. It’s masterful cinema, laying out in a 1953 manner the damaging effect living in the shadow of a futile death has on the human condition. War, what is it good for, absolutely nothing (except creating compelling cinema when crafted by those with style, grace and the ability to convey some of the darkest moments individuals will ever find themselves in).