Synopsis From Back Cover:
After their ship is sunk in the Atlantic by Germans, eight people are stranded in a lifeboat. Their problems are further compounded when they pick up a ninth passenger - the Nazi captain from the U-boat that torpedoed them.
When someone asks me to name my favorite Hitchcock movie, there are a few that will run through my head, but every time I answer the same way, Lifeboat. Directed in 1944, two years after another favorite Suspicion, and one year before another, Spellbound, this is Hitchcock at his tension building best.
Putting these characters into a derelict lifeboat, in the middle of the Atlantic, it could have gone two ways. The isolation could have been incredibly boring, Castaway anyone. It could have been a bunch of people, bickering as they are waiting to be rescued. Or the setting could have created such a closed in, claustrophobic feeling to the whole movie, keeping the tension ratcheted up the entire time. And that is what Hitchcock managed to do.
There is nothing not perfect about this movie. I even love Tallulah Bankhead in it, and I'm not normally a huge fan of hers. She never seemed to take acting seriously, at least not in film. Her performances always reminded me of someone going through the motions, not really into what they are doing. It's how I imagine most fast food workers. They don't like their jobs, maybe even hate them, but they need the money. Acting seemed like a means to an end for her, not a real passion. I'm not sure what changed for her in Lifeboat, but she knocks it out of the ballpark. Her turn as Constance Porter, a rather jaded war correspondent, is her best work. For the first time I was watching a woman who really enjoyed what she was doing, and she actually made me believe in the character. It's like watching Madonna in Evita, some roles are made for a certain actress/actor, and Constance Porter was perfect for Tallulah Bankhead.
The real star of the movie, was the atmosphere and tension that Hitchcock built within that confined space. It's the tension between the characters, the tension between the Allies and Germany, and even the tension among the Allies themselves, all at work, creating a powder keg situation. The tension never lets up. It has it's ebbs and flows, it's moments where calm seems to have descended, then Hitchcock ratchets it back up, culminating in a explosive ending.