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'GLIMPSE': WHEN THE TRUTH WAS OBSCURED.

Byline: David Kronke

In 1989, an explosive conflagration aboard the battleship USS Iowa, which had traversed our planet's oceans for 45 years in the name of protecting America and its interests, killed 47 sailors. After an investigation, the Navy blamed the tragedy on sabotage by a disgruntled sailor, despite evidence that the ship's aging gunnery system was at fault.

``A Glimpse of Hell,'' a docudrama based on journalist Charles C. Thompson II's book of the same name, absorbingly and intelligently explores the events leading up to the battleship's blast in Turret Two and the subsequent investigation that apparently whitewashed the truth and employed homophobia to tar the reputations of two sailors. Two men, Lt. Dan Meyer (Robert Sean Leonard) and Gunnersmate First Class Dale Mortensen (Daniel Roebuck), spearheaded the efforts to bring the truth to light.

Director Mikael Salomon, working from a smart, no-nonsense script by David Freed, Adam Rodman and Tom Topor, tells his story briskly and with facility, aided by a strong cast. Leonard delivers a commendably unflashy performance as the earnest Meyer, who envisioned being a career naval man just like his father until the explosion. Roebuck (who played Jay Leno under a pile of makeup in the HBO film ``The Late Shift'') brings a lot of empathy to the role of Mortensen.

James Caan, likewise, does effectively understated work as Fred Moosally, the captain of the Iowa, who had the most to lose by not rubber- stamping the official investigation and yet, when everything was at stake, chose not to do so anyway.

``A Glimpse of Hell'' eschews gaudy pyrotechnics and sagely relies on the strength of its story, in which truth, gratifyingly, was eventually rescued from the rubble of the Iowa.

``A GLIMPSE OF HELL''

What: Docudrama about the 1989 disaster aboard the U.S.S. battleship Iowa and the resulting investigation.

The stars: Robert Sean Leonard, James Caan, Daniel Roebuck.

Where: FX.

When: 8 tonight.

Our rating: Three stars

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo: Robert Sean Leonard, left, plays an officer at odds with the Navy - and captain James Caan - in ``A Glimpse of Hell.''
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Television Program Review
Date:Mar 18, 2001
Words:350
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