Britannic (2000)

 

 

 

 

Director:    Brian Trenchard-Smith

Starring:    Edward Atterton (Reynolds), Amanda Ryan (Vera Campbell), Jacqueline Bisset (Lady Lewis), Ben Daniels (Townsend), John Rhys-Davies (Captain Barrett), Bruce Payne (Doctor Baker), Alex Ferns (Stoker Evans), Eleanor Oakley (Sarah Lewis), Archie Davies (William Lewis), Ed Stobart (Mayfield), Adam Bareham (Radio Operator), David Lumsden (German Radio Operator), Wolf Kahler (Captain Kruger), Philip Rham (Jurgens), Daniel Coonan (Seamus).

In November 1916 the H.M.H.S. Britannic was sunk off the Greek island of Kea. It is believed it was sunk by a German submarine, but this fictional account suggests the conspiracy theory of a German agent sabotaging the liner that was being used as a hospital ship.

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

The world has been at war for two years.  Southampton, England. November 12, 1916.  The Britannic is the largest ship in the world.  It has recently been turned into a hospital ship.  A group of Germans kill the ship's chaplain and one German takes the place of the chaplain.    

Coming on board is Lady Lewis, the wife of the British ambassador to Greece, along with her two children and their governess Vera Campbell.  Vera faints as she comes aboard.  It seems she does not like ships.  Later Ms. Campbell visits with Captain Barrett and First Officer Townsend.  She gives the Captain a letter which explains that Ms. Campbell is a military operative for the British.  Her task is to search for a possible German spy on board the ship.  The Germans believe that the ship is carrying weapons.  But the Captain and the First Officer dismiss the letter saying that it is just a bunch of cloak and dagger nonsense. 

Captain Barrett tells the hospital staff that they are headed to the Mediterranean to pick up 3,000 wounded soldiers.  But the German officer pretending to be Chaplain Reynolds does not believe that the ship is just a hospital ship.  Also on board are some seamen who are German or are members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.  Reynolds uses a hidden transmitter in his Bible to send messages to a nearby German submarine.  

Reynolds starts developing a relationship with Vera Campbell.  She tells him that ships make her ill because she was a survivor of the sister ship of the Britannic, the Titanic.  Campbell continues to have trouble with the ship's officers who seem very prejudiced against her.  Because of this, they ignore her warnings of suspicious happenings on the ship. 

When Reynolds is spotted checking on the weapons on the ship, seaman Evans sees him.  Reynolds responds by breaking the seaman's neck and hiding his body.  Campbell visits Reynolds and explains that she has lost some of her old confidence.

November 14, 1916.  The German attempt to take over the ship is begun.  The observant Campbell, however, notices what is going on and comes to the rescue with a critical shot to the neck of the German with the machine gun, thereby saving the day.  Reynolds manages to remain below the radar.  The revolt is put down.  Now the Captain and First Officer apologize to Campbell for their negative attitudes and behaviors toward her. 

The German submarine plans to attack at 8:10 a.m. when the bulkhead doors are open.

November 16, 1916.  H.M.S. Victoria arrives to accompany the Britannic.  The ship warns Captain Barrett that a periscope has been spotted not far from his ship.  The German submarine fires two torpedoes.   The first one just barely misses the ship.  First Officer Townsend then explodes the second torpedo by shooting it with a machine-gun. 

November 19, 1916.  The ships arrive at Naples for taking on coal.  On shore Reynolds talks to one of his contacts who tells him that he has failed.   Campbell sees the tail end of the meeting and also sees Reynolds receive something (contact detonators) hidden in a newspaper.  Reynolds, however, is able to talk his way past Campbell's suspicions.

Seaman Evans's body is found in the coal bin.  Also found there was an officer's button.  Campbell has sex with Reynolds in his room. 

November 21, 1916.  In the morning Campbell puts on Reynolds's coat and finds that it is missing a button.  Now she really suspects Reynolds.  She heads over to the ship's doctor to discuss it with him, but is interrupted when Reynolds shows up.  It appears that the doctor is also in on the German plot.  The doctor tries to shoot Campbell, but is himself shot in the head by Reynolds.  Campbell tries to shoot Reynolds but is knocked unconscious by the German.  Reynolds then heads to the coal bin to ignite an explosive mixture of ether and coal dust.  As Reynolds is preparing the explosion, he is interrupted by Campbell with a gun.  She shoots and wounds Reynolds in the arm, but he is able to set off the explosion that blows a hole in the ship's side. 

As the ship starts to fill with water, Reynolds and Campbell head up to the top deck.  Campbell is told that the boy William is missing because he went to look for her, his governess.  She heads back down to look for William.  Reynolds helps her search.  Campbell finds William.  When they try to head to the top deck Reynolds gets himself caught under a falling girder.  Campbell takes William to the lifeboat and returns to get Reynolds free from the girder. 

Campbell frees Reynolds but now both their lives are threatened by the rising waters. They have to go through a lot of machinations to get themselves to safety.  They finally achieve this by opening a porthole and swimming through it to the water's surface.  They then get into a compromised lifeboat.  Campbell is pulled to safety via a rope thrown from another lifeboat.  Reynolds in the compromised lifeboat is killed when he and  his boat are chopped up by the ship's massive propeller.

The survivors are picked up by the HMS Victoria.  The Britannic sank in 57 minutes, half the time it took for the Titanic to sink.  Thirty people lost their lives out of the 1,164 passengers.  In 1976 Jacques Cousteau discovered the ruins of the Britannic

 

Entertaining movie.  Most of the action and suspense were purely fictional, but we do get to learn about the fate of the sister ship of the Titanic, the Britannic.  The story is somewhat similar to that of the Titanic with a love story aboard a doomed ship, but it does hold one's attention.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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