Up Periscope (1959)
James Garner stars as a U.S. Navy frogman in this tension-filled submarine flick set in 1942. Lt. Kenneth M. Braden (Garner) has just asked the woman he loves to marry him, and she runs off in tears.
That night, he is called to duty to be smuggled into a Japanese-held island by the submarine "Barracuda" to photograph radio codes. He must put his personal life aside and focus on the dangerous mission, risking the lives of all 80 men on the submarine.
This was one of Garner's first big-time movies while he was in his heyday as "Maverick," and the promo even billed him as James "Maverick" Garner. However, this was not like any character of Garner's people had seen. Yes, he was the all-American, stunningly handsome charmer, but he was mostly calculated, serious, out-spoken, and driven. There are little to no moments of quick wit and cleverness to his character; he is extremely straight-forward. He does get a pretty good scene with three beautiful wahines, but finds them "expendable;" his first and only love is the woman he left at home.
I also found the character of Commander Paul Stevenson intriguing, played by Edmund O'Brien. This man has his own demons to deal with, but he also has the great responsibility of being in charge of the submarine and all the men it contains. None of the men know why Garner's character is on the submarine except for the Commander and his first exec, so the seamen speculate as to the Commander's bravery in battle. Although the Commander knows that his men doubt him, he keeps moving forward with the plan, at the risk of his own reputation.
Just experiencing what the men of WWII had to give up for their country, what they had to endure, makes this film worthwhile. You feel the claustrophobia of the submarine, you see their loneliness and anguish, you share their longing to be home with their families. To be reminded of those men who risked their lives with courage and patriotism is reason enough to rent this movie.