‘The Hook’: Three Perspectives of Man

An individual's view of humanity is shaped by their experiences and their personality, as 'The Hook' portrays.

by Kali Tuttle
The Hook

The Hook is a lesser-known war film concerning the end of the Korean War. It details the story of three soldiers forced with the difficult decision to execute a prisoner of war that fell into their hands. The differing opinions on this matter between the three men are what drives The Hook’s main conflict.

While it’s an oversimplification to contain every perspective on the issue to just three views, The Hook displays the attitudes of men in war in a succinct manner. It’s a fascinating portrayal of what war does to men, exaggerating the worst and the best qualities of each.

Sgt. P. J. Briscoe (Kirk Douglas)

The Sergeant is the superior of the three men and is keen to show so whenever he can. While he is protective of his two subordinates, he also has a nasty controlling streak that estranges him from his men. Briscoe has seen much of war and it has hardened him into a calculated killer.

When given informal orders to execute the prisoner of war in his possession, he has no hesitation to do so. However, Private O.A. Dennison prevents him from killing the prisoner when Briscoe tries. This infuriates Briscoe and he makes Dennison’s life hell for doing so.

It makes one wonder what kind of man he may have been before the war. Was he as soft-hearted as Dennison? Or had he always been as cold as he was after the war ended? The audience is not given insight into his past, the same way we would not have insight into any stranger’s life that we encounter.

Pvt. V.R. Hackett (Nick Adams)

Hackett is more compassionate than Briscoe, but he is more selfish than Dennison. He agrees with Dennison that killing the prisoner is not exactly the most desirable course of action, but he is less willing to do anything about it. Due to a debt he owes Briscoe, he feels unable to stand up to his brutishness and reluctantly follows his orders.

Hackett is quite malleable though. At one point, Dennison is able to convince Hackett to disobey Briscoe. The disobedience isn’t anything significant, but it’s a step for Hackett in becoming independent and living his life on his terms. He’s still susceptible to Briscoe barging back into this life though. Hackett is a people-pleaser stuck in a war that means doing unpleasant things.

Private Hackett represents those in the world who are neither great heroes or great villains — they just exist. In The Hook, Hackett is pulled both ways, based on who presents the most convincing argument to him. He doesn’t necessarily have core values that are strong enough to guide him through his decisions, so he follows what authorities and charismatic voices tell him.

Pvt. O.A. Dennison (Robert Walker)

Private Dennison is the man that most people aspire to be, but never quite measure up to. Dennison is firmly against the killing of the prisoner of war and refuses to do so several times. Despite Briscoe’s aggression and grandstanding, Dennison stands firm and adheres to his values.

The Hook makes clear that much of Dennison’s morality comes from the fact that he is so young. Even though he has been through a horrific war and seen his friends killed, he still clings to a vision of hope. This hope irritates Briscoe because of his morose outlook on the world. Dennison’s hope and kindness is in direct contrast with his worldview that everyone is selfish and everything is against you.

Dennison’s world is filled with sorrow still. Because he has that hope, when situations go bad, he has a long fall from optimistic to miserable. The Hook subtly shows that despite the desire to be compassionate and kind in our dealings with other men, you need to have a little bit of Briscoe in you so that you aren’t devastated by the unfeeling nature of the world.

War, Terrible War

The Hook is a character study of three archetypes of humans. Humans can’t be contained to just three different types, but there are more common types that can describe many people.

Briscoe represents the cynicism of man. He is numb to the world’s travesties and no longer holds any hope for what could be. To him, it’s a dog-eat-dog world and only the strongest will survive. Those who seem weaker to him, like Dennison, are merely annoyances.

Hackett represents men who don’t make a stand. These are men that don’t have strong values to adhere to when things get rough. They are easily swayed by a persuasive argument and can be won over to light or dark without too much effort. They are the followers of the world.

Dennison represents people who are still optimistic about the world and its possibilities. They may be blind to the more unsavory parts of human nature and are willing to give others second chances. While this is generally seen as an ideal person, people like Dennison can be naïve and see the world through rose-tinted glasses. The ideal person would be a mix of all three of these characters.

Follow MovieBabble on Twitter @MovieBabble_ and Kali Tuttle @tuttle_kali2.

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1 comment

Nick Kush February 9, 2023 - 7:44 pm

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