A Clydeside shipbuilder risks his business to develop a new design, but his board will not back him. Rather than risk defeat, he forges a signature to gain extra finance and is arrested, but the new ship is a success. Filmed partly on location in Glasgow, and with a dynamic performance by Banks, the film struck an unusual note of topicality after the Depression.
Red Ensign shows ambition on every level. Based on contemporary newspaper stories about the Clydeside shipyards, it stars Leslie Banks as an energetic shipbuilder thwarted by his own board and threatened by a rival's sabotage of his new design. With its impressive shipyard exteriors and Bank's energetic performance, Red Ensign looks today like a film struggling to cast off quota-period cliché and achieve both topicality and a true cinematic scale and rhythm. This must be due in part to the quality of Powell's new collaborators, and especially to the head of Gaumont-British's art department, Alfred Junge, who had originally come to Britain from the Berlin UFA studios.
Ian Christie (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger: Arrows of Desire)