*Crappy review originally from 2003 after my first watch – it’s now one of my favourites.
Lifeboat is an early experimental film by Alfred Hitchcock, one mainly taking place in the limited confines of a lifeboat. A US ship has been bombed, and a number of survivors reach a lifeboat. Connie Porter is a self-interested, strong-willed reporter, Kovac is anti-German due to the war, and each of the other characters have their own problems and opinions. When a young mother kills herself after her baby dies, the crew become closer and try to find a way out of their situation, deciding to sail for Bermuda even though their compass is broken. When a German joins the boat they crew argue over what to do – some don’t trust him, others say they cannot just throw him out. The German says he knows which way Bermuda is and the others follow his course. He has another agenda though, appearing to lead them to a Nazi supply ship, keeping the water and food pills for himself. When he lets one of the group die they turn against him in typically brutal fashion. However, was he genuinely trying to help them? And how will the group escape now?
The film is of course character driven, but unfortunately many of the characters are not as interesting as the core group and no matter what happens they seem passive and unemotional. Each actor does well even if none stand out and the tension continues to build by small degrees until the last 15 minutes or so. Hitchcock would hone these elements in later films such as Rear Window and Rope, films which also center on a number of moral debates while taking place in a single set. It is interesting because we inevitably ask ourselves what we would do in such a situation, who we would trust, what prejudices would we put aside or exploit to ensure our survival.
Let us know in the comments what you thought of Lifeboat!