The Sand Pebbles is a huge epic of a movie detailing a time in U.S. history that most people prefer to forget. The movie tells the story of the San Pablo, a US gunboat, and its new engineer, Jake Holman. Upon his arrival, Holman upsets the living and working system the crew has with their Chinese coolies. This is just the first of many problems that fall upon the San Pablo. Along the way, the crew must remain their presence as China goes through their revolution. Just the presence of the US gunboat upsets the people. The action scenes, especially the battle with the barricade of junks and the gunbattle in the courtyard are startling and graphic, but very effective. There are plenty of great scenes, especially those between Holman and his new Chinese coolie, Po Han. Their scenes together are great to watch as Holman tries to teach him about how the engine works. This is a great movie that takes its time to get going, but once it does it never slows down.
Steve McQueen fully deserved his nomination for Best Actor for his performance as Jake Holman. He became famous for playing the brooding loner, and this performance is no different. Richard Attenborough is also very good as one of Jake's few allies on the ship, Frenchy Burgoyne. Richard Crenna is excellent as the captain of the San Pablo who refuses to question their orders, no matter how ridiculous they may seem. Candice Bergen is very good in one of her first roles as a missionary working with the Chinese people who befriends Jake. The DVD offers widescreen presentation, theatrical trailers, radio documentaries and spots, and commentary by the director. For an excellent movie with fully believable characters, a great story, and well choreographed action scenes, check out The Sand Pebbles!