The Sand Pebbles (1966): An Epic Classic [FQ14 #68]


Why I Saw It: I’m not as familiar with the work of Steve McQueen as I’d like to be, so when a co-worker recommended I watch the film, that gave me an extra reason to check it out.

Rating: 8.7 out of 10

Memorable Performances

As a surprise to no one, Steve McQueen’s performance as Jake Holman was really good. There weren’t too many changes in the character throughout the film, but he had some strong convictions and McQueen was great in the role.

This is only the second performance I can recall seeing from Richard Attenborough, and this being about 30 years prior to Jurassic Park, he was tough to recognize. His work here was good, but I’m not sure I’ll specifically remember him a year from now. While it was fun to see a young Candice Bergen in this film, she didn’t leave a lasting mark. In a three-hour movie, she might’ve had a half hour’s worth of on-screen time.

Apart from Steve McQueen, the actor whose work was exceptionally memorable is Mako, pictured above with McQueen. His role was vital to the plot, and he was great from the first moments until his final scene. It’s no surprise that he was cast multiple times per year for the 40 years which followed this movie.

Favorite Parts

The Jake Holman character was a very enjoyable part of this film. The way he was written and the performance just make him a very endearing character. Whether it’s the way he treated Po-han, or helping Frenchy Burgoyne with Maily, or the humanity he shows in the final 15 minutes of the film, he’s just a great character.

The Regrettable Aspects

The film doesn’t have too many negatives, aside from its three-hour length. That said, I can’t count that as too much of a negative, because it doesn’t seem that long. However, the run-time might be a detractor to some people seeing this fine piece of cinematic history. Other than that, perhaps they could’ve made Candice Bergen’s role a bit larger, though I wouldn’t recommend that if it would’ve detracted from other areas of the film.

Would I watch it again?

I don’t say this about many three-hour movies from the 1960s, but I will absolutely watch this film again, and it might become one of those movies that I’ll regularly put on in the background while I do something else. With multiple storylines segmenting the film, it won’t be hard to just watch portions of it.

To Whom Would I Recommend It?

To anyone who likes a good war movie and wants to see some very strong performances, I’ll absolutely recommend this film.

Note: This was the 62nd film I’ve seen this year. For more information on what I’ve been up to, check out the page for my Film Quest 2014.


One response to “The Sand Pebbles (1966): An Epic Classic [FQ14 #68]

  1. It’s the one and only performance that got McQueen an Oscar nomination. For all his “cool”, and all the hits, this was what proved him to be an actor. It’s one of my favorite films. In addition to what your review listed, it’s because of Robert Wise, one of the finest directors of character-driven movies (Somebody Up There Likes Me, Day the Earth Stood Still, West Side Story, Sound of Music) and the great, emotional score by Jerry Goldsmith.

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