“Juggernaut” Sails On

Anthony Hopkins, who is extraordinary in Richard Lester‘s film Juggernaut (1974), once said this obscure picture is “highly underrated.” It was released in the Seventies when it was understood that British films were saying very little, if anything, of importance. Hence what difference would it make for Lester to direct a thriller about a vicious criminal who has planted seven bombs on a transatlantic liner?

But Juggernaut, though quite imperfect, is pretty shrewd and engrossing. Lester does well with the early crowd scene—all those ocean liner passengers before the voyage begins—and maintains the directorial competence to the end. One of the best segments covers the bomb squad technicians as they parachute into the ocean and go through hell to get on the ship. (It’s up to them to dismantle the bombs.) Then there are the actors. Although Omar Sharif, as the liner’s captain, is uninteresting, Richard Harris and David Hemmings are pleasingly believable. Ian Holm and Roy Kinnear are reliable, but Shirley Knight does not show the unerring authenticity that Caroline Mortimer, enacting Anthony Hopkins’s wife, shows.

I should also indicate that there is scant directorial daring from Lester in the film. It isn’t Petulia. It is underrated, even so, and credit should be given where it is due.

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