Monday, April 4, 2011


(May 1995, U.S.)

I've seen my small share of submarine films. From as early as RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP (1958) to as recently as K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER (2002) and I can honestly claim that Tony Scott's CRIMSON TIDE is the best I've ever seen of the genre. I can also claim that it's probably the last great film I've ever seen from the same director as TOP GUN (1986). Now while DEJA VU (2006) is a noteworthy film for it's own reasons of plotline, Tony Scott has (unfortunately) spent the better part of the last decade making films that feature intolerable quick edits, jump cuts and camera work that moves at the speed of light. Some find this technique of film making exciting. I find it downright nauseating!

But getting back to this great submarine action film, it takes place during a period of political turmoil in the Russian Federation, in which ultranationalists threaten to launch nuclear missiles at the United States. It focuses on a clash of wills between the seasoned commanding officer Captain Ramsey (played by Gene Hackman in what I consider his last great role) and executive officer Lt. Commander Hunter (played by Denzel Washington) of a nuclear missile submarine, arising from conflicting interpretations of an order to launch their missiles at Russia. During their initial days at sea, tensions between Ramsey and Hunter become apparent due to a clash of personalities: Hunter's more analytical, cautious approach towards his mission and the men, as opposed to Ramsey's more impulsive, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants approach. Tensions rise to their ultimate level and all-out mutiny breaks between those that stand with each man and their principles. It's an exciting series of events to watch because each "team" is at the command of an actor who in his own right commands his own powerful performance and attention. Each man, both in volume and in strength, can cause the viewer to take both points of view seriously. But in the end, when we learn that Hunter was right in his presumptions and his action, we can't help but smile and say, "Yes! The son of a bitch was right all along!"

CRIMSON TIDE, by all cliche definitions, can certainly be called a "man's" movie that excites the intellect as well as the adrenaline glands with snappy, pop culture inflected dialogue. This is a rare kind of war film that can not only thrill the viewer while watching it, but can also perhaps provoke us to actually discuss the relevant issues, as well.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Captain Ramsey: "Mr Hunter, we have rules that are not open to interpretation, personal intuition, gut feelings, hairs on the back of your neck, little devils or angels sitting on your shoulder. We're all very well aware of what our orders are and what those orders mean. They come down from our Commander-in-Chief. They contain no ambiguity."
Lt. Commander Hunter: "Captain..."
Ramsey: "Mr Hunter. I've made a decision. I'm Captain of this boat. NOW SHUT THE FUCK UP!"

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