The Forty-Ninth Parallel

Watch The Forty-Ninth Parallel

  • NR
  • 1942
  • 1 hr 44 min
  • 7.3  (7,553)

The Forty-Ninth Parallel is a 1941 British war film directed by Michael Powell, starring Leslie Howard, Laurence Olivier, and Raymond Massey. The film aims to showcase the importance of unity within the British Empire during World War II, using a thrilling story of German sailors stranded in Canada. The movie opens with a German U-boat navigating through Canadian waters, heading towards Hudson Bay. When they are discovered by a Canadian anti-submarine aircraft, the U-boat launches an attack that damages the aircraft, forcing it to crash-land. The German sailors then capture the remaining survivors, including a French-Canadian trapper named Johnnie (played by Tom Skerritt).

As they make their way towards the nearest settlement, they encounter various obstacles and challenges, including difficult terrain, hostile animals, and a brave member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (played by Laurence Olivier). Along the way, their belief in the superiority of the Aryan race is challenged by their interactions with Native Canadian tribes and other diverse groups.

Meanwhile, back in England, a group of Nazis plan to rescue their stranded comrades and bring them back to Germany. They send a team of saboteurs led by Lieutenant Hirth (played by Eric Portman) to carry out their mission. The saboteurs make their way across Canada, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, and encountering resistance from both the authorities and ordinary citizens.

The film's primary message is about the importance of unity and solidarity in the face of a shared threat, as embodied by the diverse group of Canadian citizens who band together to resist the Nazi incursion. The film's heroes are not just the valiant members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but also the ordinary Canadians who stand up to the Nazis, both in the wilderness and in the cities.

The film is notable for its excellent performances, particularly those of Leslie Howard and Raymond Massey. Massey, in particular, is excellent as the trapper who bonds with the German sailors despite their philosophical differences. His portrayal of a pragmatic, no-nonsense Canadian who values his freedom and his country above all else provides the film with a much-needed dose of gravitas.

The cinematography of The Forty-Ninth Parallel is also outstanding, capturing the rugged beauty of the Canadian wilderness alongside the grittier urban landscapes. The stark contrast between the open, unspoilt landscape and the menacing presence of the Nazi saboteurs is a recurring theme throughout the film.

The final showdown between the Canadians and the saboteurs is tense and exciting, with the film culminating in a rousing call-to-arms against fascism. The film is not content to simply show the triumph of the Canadians over the Nazis, but it also takes the time to acknowledge the hardships and losses that come with war.

In summary, The Forty-Ninth Parallel is a thrilling and thought-provoking war film that remains relevant today. Its message of unity and resistance against fascism is as important as ever, and its themes of diversity and tolerance are a reminder of the value of embracing difference in the face of adversity. The film's excellent performances, breathtaking cinematography, and compelling story make it an enduring classic of the genre.

The Forty-Ninth Parallel
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 44 min
  • IMDB Rating
    7.3  (7,553)