Juggernaut (1974)

Have you ever been eating a steak, a good steak. A steak that really makes you appreciate cows. The kind of steak you chew with your eyes closed. With every chew the flavor pours out of the meat onto your taste buds, and then straight to your soul.  And then suddenly, you hit some fat, some gristle. Eyes open.

That’s how many American movies are. They start with a good premise, but then toss in unnecessary fat and gristle.

The British have a knack for making lean movies. Tight little thrillers with no fat. No gristle.

Juggernaut is a lean little movie. Directed by Richard Lester, and starring Richard Harris and a much-younger-than-we’re-used-to Anthony Hopkins (Richard Harris on the other hand, seems to have been born middle-aged).

A terrorist loads a cruise ship with seven bombs on a timer. A Navy team is flown out to diffuse the bombs while the police on land search for the bomber before the bombs’ deadline.

A standout sequence is when the bomber (calling himself Juggernaut) calls the Managing Director (Ian Holmes) of the cruise ship and informs him of the bombs and his demands. While he methodically lays out the situation, the background noise grows quiet while the volume of Juggernaut’s speech increases, all the while showing us scenes of the crew of the ship finding the bombs, the ship in fowl weather, the Managing Director’s  face as he reacts to the demands and at the same time reacting to his childrens’ oblivious reactions to their breakfast. Spell binding cinema.

Unlike most movies of this genre, we find out very little of the passenger’s personal lives. They’re not the focus of the movie. Neither are the special effects (remember, this was made in 1974). The focus is on the bombs. Intricate machines that twist and turn under the eyes of the technicians. Booby-traps abound, and the bomb technicians show themselves brave, but not fearless.

Savor this movie like a lean steak. No fat, no gristle. Just don’t forget to keep your eyes open.

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