Have You Seen…”Lusitania: Murder on the Atlantic (2007)”


Tiger Media Network

Well, the month of April has passed and I still haven’t finished the final review for Titanic-a-thon. Sorry. I have been busy. In the meantime, here’s a review of a movie about the sinking of the Lusitania.

When it comes to disasters at sea, two are mainly brought up. The Titanic and the Lusitania. For those who missed out on history class, the R.M.S. Lusitania was a British-built ship, and on May 7th, 1915 it was torpedoed by a German submarine during the First World War and sank in 18 minutes. A total of 1,195 people died, 123 of whom were American citizens, and it’s partially credited for eventually leading to the United States joining the war on the side of the Allies. Despite its status of being one of the most famous sea disasters of all time, there haven’t been that many films made about it.

There are only two I could find. A 1918 Winsor McCay cartoon short, and a docu-drama made about by Discovery right before they went off the deep end (for the first time). Today, we’ll review the latter. It is time to review “Sinking of the Lusitania: Terror at Sea,” also known as “Lusitania: Murder on the Atlantic.” I don’t really have a lot to note about the production. Apparently, the scenes set on the ship were filmed off the coast of South Africa and the scenes on the U-20 were filmed aboard the restored U-boat set from the movie “Das Boot.” Not really much else to say on that, on to the actual film itself.

The film mainly follows three major plot lines. The main character of the film is Scottish professor Ian Holbourn (a real-life survivor played by John Hannah) who is traveling home to Scotland aboard the Lusitania. During the voyage, he befriends a young girl named Avis Dolphin (played by Madeleine Garrood). While that’s going on, the German submarine U-20 is sinking ships off the Irish coast, its captain being told that the Lusitania is a viable target. Meanwhile, there are a bunch of officers at the British Admiralty who are intercepting messages from the U-20. They realize that the U-boat is in the same vicinity that the Lusitania is going towards, and they decide not to do anything about it. I’m sure you can figure out the rest. 

There are also some more plotlines involving the Captain of the Lusitania, Alfred Vanderbilt (a wealthy passenger), a fictitious sailor on the U-20, and even some scenes featuring Winston Churchill. There also might be an alternate version floating around containing more scenes, but I couldn’t find it now even though I’ve known I’ve seen it. Anyway, the plot is fine. It gives you exactly what you think it’s going to give you. They don’t have anything that’s over-the-top fictional like you’d see in a Titanic film, but it doesn’t surprise you. There seems to be an attempt to relate the tragedy to the post-9/11 era with the scenes with the British Admiralty, which is fitting for the story. But other than that, it’s just the story of the Lusitania. The acting and the characters are also similarly serviceable. None of them are bad, but it’s not mind-blowing.

The real highlight of the film, however, is the sinking scenes. What’s really impressive about it is that unlike Titanic movies (where we typically get a condensed version of the events that took 2 and a half hours), the sinking of the Lusitania plays out in real-time – as in, 18 minutes and it’s generally pretty accurate. The sets and effects are actually pretty good for a television budget in 2007, and it’s well done. However, I will say that I don’t know about the Lusitania disaster nearly as much as the Titanic, so I can’t know for sure that it’s 100% accurate, but it seems like they get the general idea.

Overall, “Lusitania: Murder on the Atlantic” is fine. It’s not great or mind-blowing; it’s just fine. If you’re looking for a movie about a historical disaster at sea that’s not about the Titanic, then give it a watch. You can literally watch it on YouTube for free, so if you haven’t seen it, then what’s your excuse?