Directed by: Roger Donaldson
Written by: Robert Bolt
Starring: Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins, Edward Fox, Laurence Olivier, Daniel Day-Lewis
Being a leader means making the unpopular choices at times for the good of an entire unit. Those decisions become tough but the understanding beneath it all makes for a strong leader. Unfortunately, for the sailors upon the boat called The Bounty, they learned about the line some leaders cross veering into authoritarianism, which blocks out all dissenting opinions in a fury and ultimately leads to the historical mutiny.
Highly respected sea voyager, William Bligh (Anthony Hopkins) plans to take a crew to Tahiti, which would be a grand feat for England. He asks the young Fletcher Christian (Mel Gibson) to join him on this journey. On the journey there and their subsequent landing, tension begins to form within the crew, as Bligh begins to bark more demanding commands until they reach their boiling point.
Filmed as a look back to the events that transpired in the trial of Bligh back in England, everything happening in Tahiti serves as a flashback and a way for Bligh to reflect on everything on that infamous trip. In a way, it takes away some of the tension occurring on the ship, because we know the end result, but the true events display a history of the troubled intentions of colonialism and how the end goal conflicts between the two different factions.
The breakpoint between the two factions occurs when they land on the island and the perception of lawlessness conflicts with the idea of simply settling. A group of men led by Fletcher Christian looks at their landing on Tahiti as something to celebrate. They call it heaven on Earth for a reason. Sailors aligned with Fletcher would rather stay and enjoy the island life because they do not live by the same rigidity Bligh has decided to use as his character trait. Part of Bligh’s angry demeanor shows a lack of control he feels from the men with a large helping of racism overtop.
Bligh’s progression makes for the more interesting character to follow because Fletcher wants to leave the restriction of always having to follow orders behind and enjoy life. Fletcher’s ultimate turn appears when Bligh’s means of leading takes an incredibly harsh turn, but the lieutenant’s journey throughout the film makes for the real story. It becomes the tale of how to improperly lead a group of people and where fear replaces honor. It certainly helps that Anthony Hopkins took on this role and spews out all of the anger this character could bring out. The character Bligh completely exhibits what hatred looks like in a man and how his pride leads to his downfall. We see it through the trial of whether he should be held responsible for the mutiny and the flashbacks of the event in question. Through the trial, he looks back upon his actions and while they may be in line with the chain of command, it displays malpractice in the role of a leader.
The struggle of leading knows no bounds and looking through the mindset of Bligh shows why he became so furious with his men. It steeps from his pride and unchecked racism towards the people of Tahiti. Bligh believes in the presentation of British men around the world with how they attempted to colonize everywhere they could possibly land. Seeing his men get chummy with the people of Tahiti makes a connection with them, who he sees as inferior, intermingling with the men representing a proper society. He expects his men to follow his lead and treat the locals with the indignation any true British man should, but the friendly behavior they display clashes with everything he deems appropriate. It causes the dust-up and whether Bligh learned from this experience does not become explicitly clear, The Bounty shows despite all his faults, he surely excelled in his position. However, just because one may be good at a certain task does not guarantee their success as a leader and this film serves as a reminder.
Even if we side with the men settling with the Tahitian people, their actions show the perils of colonialism and how these sailors come and majorly impact communities doing just fine before landing on their shores. Bligh becomes the villain, but the others have the blame to share between them. It makes The Bounty nothing incredibly special through its filmmaking but a look back on an expedition, which exposed so much about these men and the intentions they had when signing up for this voyage. The performances add some zest to the story, and it makes for an interesting look at a broken man and how he had no business leading a group of men.