Saturday 25 November 2023

Movie Review: The Old Man And The Sea (1958)

Genre: Adventure Drama
Director: John Sturges
Starring: Spencer Tracy
Running Time: 87 minutes

Synopsis: In a Havana fishing village, "The Old Man" Santiago (Spencer Tracy) is a fisherman on a long streak of bad luck: he has not caught a fish for 84 days. His only friend is the young boy Manolin, who used to fish with the Old Man but switched to another, luckier boat. On the 85th day, the Old Man goes further away from shore and hooks a huge marlin. For days the powerful big fish pulls the Old Man out to sea, but despite his age and ailments Santiago is determined to win this battle. 

What Works Well: The almost unfilmable Ernest Hemingway novella is turned into a soulful cinematic experience by surrendering to the book's simplicity. Relying more on narration than dialogue and leaning heavily on a weathered Spencer Tracy performance, director John Sturges easily succeeds in surfacing Hemingway's potent man versus nature themes. The Old Man's battle with the marlin is about minutes, hours, and days, but represents humanity's eternal refusal to succumb to nature's might, even as age creeps up on ability. 

What Does Not Work As Well: With many scenes filmed in a studio tub, the composite visuals are patchy and distracting. The open water, special effects, and third-party sequences come with varying levels of colour saturation, light, and granularity, and are awkwardly pasted around Tracy's performance.

Conclusion: "Man is not made for defeat. Man can be destroyed, but not defeated."

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