Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)

Mr. Mitchum & Ms. Kerr Excel In Mr. Allison

- World War II has stretched into 1944, and somewhere in the South Pacific a small raft is tossed around by the waves, floating indifferently to nowhere. Time passes, and this small raft touches the beach of a small island, pouring out the exhausted United States Marine Corporal Allison (Robert Mitchum). Searching the island, he finds it populated by only one Irish nun, Sister Angela (Deborah Kerr), who has been stuck there for days. Now marooned mates, Cpl. Allison and Sister Angela get to know one another and work together for survival. As one might guess, their little vacation does not go so smoothly; the Japanese Army pops by for a visit and we are talking about one island with one man and one woman - you do the math. Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957) is an unforgettable film from John Huston, a film about survival, faith, and really caring for someone.

Robert Mitchum has given a lot of great performances throughout his 50 year career in film, but he has never been seen quite like this. In Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, Mitchum really opens up and lets loose as this cool and composed but tough and stop-at-nothing Marine, but the subtleties of his performance especially brings out the placid humanity of his character. It is an example of a truly riveting performance - Mitchum has never been finer. No one but Deborah Kerr would suffice in the role of Sister Angela. Through Kerr, Sister Angela is reserved but sparkling and soft yet unwavering in whatever she does. She also makes those of us who are not nuns easily and respectfully understand where her character is coming from. Mitchum and Kerr have such a great and complementing on-screen chemistry, and their cinematic tag-team is the main thing behind the film's fun and compelling nature.

John Huston was no film-making novice by 1957, and put together an excellent film with Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison. Huston gets fantastic performances from Mitchum and Kerr but the film also has an equally fantastic look. Perfect camera movements, picture quality, locations, sets and special effects serve the film wonderfully as visual treats but also as an excellent cinematic setting for the story and Mitchum and Kerr's performances.

Huston directs the film, but he also, along with John Lee Mahin, wrote the screenplay - and what a wonderfully written film this is. Adapted from Charles Shaw's novel, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison has an engaging story with fun, thoughtful, and respectful dialogue throughout. The interaction and development of the Cpl. Allison and Sister Angela characters through the performances of Mitchum and Kerr is what this film is all about. Who knew a nun and an American Marine would have so much in common? Sure they have the common goal of staying alive on the island but they also grow close to one another and end up impacting each other in different ways. Cpl. Allison has never cared about or been much use to anyone outside the Marine Corp., he is only familiar with his past life of getting into more trouble than doing any good and his current life as a Marine. That is until he has to look after Sister Angela - suddenly things are different. Then on the other side of things, you have Sister Angela, who has not had a life outside of the church, finding herself growing closer to this Marine and thrown into the middle of a dangerous war situation.

With a great story filled with wonderful characters, warmth, humor, action, tension and suspense; film specifics of unequaled quality; and two amazing film-driving performances from Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr; Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is an excellent and unforgettable film.

CBC Rating: 10/10

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