A World War II Classic Gets a Modern Update in 'The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial'

Kiefer Sutherland, Lance Reddick and Dale Dye in 'The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.' (Showtime)

"The Caine Mutiny-Court Martial," the play based on the 1951 book by U.S. Navy veteran Herman Wouk, has been produced and reproduced many times since it first debuted in 1953. The most famous version might be the 1954 Humphrey Bogart film "The Caine Mutiny," but cast members through the ages have included Henry Fonda, Charlton Heston, Jeff Daniels, David Schwimmer and even former New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath.

The latest version of the military courtroom drama will premiere on Showtime and Paramount+ starting in October with a cast that includes Keifer Sutherland ("24"), Lance Reddick ("John Wick") and Jason Clarke ("Zero Dark Thirty"). Eagle-eyed viewers will also spot military movie legend Capt. Dale Dye ("Saving Private Ryan," "Platoon") on the court-martial board.

The original "Caine Mutiny" took place aboard a World War II minesweeper, and author Wouk drew from his personal experience aboard such ships, the USS Zane and USS Southard, in the Pacific Theater (although Wouk never actually experienced a mutiny during his service).

The story behind the court-martial is straightforward. Unpopular but disciplined Lt. Cmdr. Philip Queeg (Sutherland) takes over as skipper of the USS Caine, but begins to act irrationally as the vessel goes about its mission. When sailing through a typhoon, the ship begins to founder and must reverse course or sink.

Executive Officer Lt. Steve Maryk (Jake Lacy, "The Office") believes Queeg scared and frozen, and when the skipper refuses to reverse course, Maryk relieves Queeg of command and orders the ship out of the storm and back to San Francisco, where he and Ens. Willis Keith (Tom Riley, "Angie Tribeca") are court-martialed for mutiny. The setting of the film is the courtroom.

Never in the history of the U.S. Navy has a formal mutiny ever taken place aboard an American ship at sea. Officers aboard the USS Somers came close in 1842 with the intent to become pirates, but the conspirators were caught and hanged before they could act on their plan.

Showtime's latest "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial" lays out what the aftermath of the relief of an officer might look like in today's Navy. While the Navy can still boast that it never suffered a mutiny at sea, the courtroom drama comes at a time when the sea service has relieved a number of high-profile commanding officers due to a "loss of confidence" in their ability to command. There have been at least six such firings this year, the latest in September, and more than a dozen in 2022.

Two key players in the film passed away before its premiere. Director William Friedkin ("The Exorcist") died in August 2023, and actor Lance Reddick, who plays presiding officer Capt. Luther Blakely, died in March.

There's something in this latest version of the film for everyone, from fans nostalgic for the days of "JAG" to fans of the Humphrey Bogart classic, as well as anyone who likes to see Navy officers finally get what's coming to them.

"The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial” starts streaming Oct. 6, 2023, on Showtime and Paramount+.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, or on LinkedIn.

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