Sink the Bismarck! (1960) A British Movie About One of the Most Crucial Moments in British History

The British black and white movie Sink the Bismarck! tells the true account of one of the most difficult moments during WWII. The new German battleship the Bismarck was the biggest and most powerful battleship to ever cruise the sea. A frightening enemy that had to be stopped before it could break loose and reach the Atlantic. The war on the North Atlantic was at its height and so were the British losses at sea.

Sink the Bismarck! switches back and forth between scenes in the war room and scenes at sea. As a narrator states at the beginning of the movie, the war is fought at sea but the decisions are made in the war room. The scenes taking place in the war room resemble many others that are depicted in British movies but they are much more psychological. The filmmakers decided to focus closely on Captain Shepard who has been promoted and is in charge of the navy on land and on his assistant, Anne Davis, a young woman whose fiancé died at the beginning of the war. Shepard himself is grieving for his wife and one of his sons. He is shown as hard and rigid in the beginning but he changes considerably over the course of the movie. The people around him, although annoyed by his harshness, still know that he has to take some of the most difficult decisions that have to be taken during the war.

The most tragic moment in the movie is certainly when the biggest British battleship, The Hood, is sunk within minutes of attacking The Bismarck. It explodes in front of the eyes of the rest of the British fleet which is close by.

After this has happened Churchill gives one of his famous speeches and utters the memorable words “Sink the Bismarck!”.

We all know what course history has taken so it is not too much of a spoiler to say that the British navy, together with the assistance of the pilots of aircraft carrier Ark Royal, did manage to sink the huge German fortress. Quite a tragic moment even for the British. No one really cheered. There is something eerie about naval combat; many people die when a ship is finally sunk but the ships themselves are lost as well and they often look like gigantic wounded animals dying a violent death.

All this said, it’s a fine movie. The characters we see in the war room are well-developed, the tragedy of the initial defeat of the British navy is palpable, the huge burden that lasted on those who take decisions can be felt and the utter senselessness of war is symbolized in the sinking of those huge ships. I couldn’t help admire the German engineers at one point, the Bismarck was an astonishingly powerful ship. But I also admired those people in charge in the British war rooms. They worked day and night, hardly ever slept and were dedicated to the last. 4/5