Noël Coward and David Lean's In Which We Serve was a landmark film on several levels, some of them deceptive. It marked the official directorial debut of top-flight editor Lean, who had previously directed much of the Gabriel Pascal adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara. And it brought Coward, then the leading light of the theater on both sides of the Atlantic, to the screen as an actor/director, performing a role modeled closely on Lord Mountbatten. But its most important attribute was also its least appreciated: its structure, which owed a great deal to Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941) in breaking up the action into flashback vignettes and non-linear storytelling. Coward and Lean had studied the Welles film closely in pre-production, and they applied its lessons about film narrative to a topical, contemporary action setting. In Which We Serve is arguably the popular film that best took the breakthroughs of Citizen Kane and ran with them into new dramatic territory.
by Bruce Eder review