Starring: Gene Hackman, Denzel Washington, Matt Craven, George Dzundza, Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini
Directed by: Tony Scott
Written by: Michael Schiffer
Rating: R (US) Running Time: 1 hr 56 min
I remember a few years after Crimson Tide was released, the movie came up in a conversation with friends, and I expressed how much I liked it. Much to the annoyance of a Navy Veteran who overheard our conversation. He didn’t just disagree with our estimation of the film’s quality and entertainment value, but actually became livid as he detailed the many huge inaccuracies within the film. Expressing that ‘this was just a film’ only made matters worse, as it seemed his main concern was whether people would believe the events depicted in the movie were actually possible.
The premise is pretty simple in Crimson Tide. During a confrontation on par with the Cuban missile crisis, Captain Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) and Lt. Commander Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington) have a difference of opinion on whether to follow their properly authenticated orders, and launch nuclear missiles at Russia. So you are initially meant to think, ‘well they have their orders, and a mad man in Russia is an hour away from launching his missiles, so – fire away!’
However, a second set of orders were partly received, so while the Captain wants to ignore what is an unauthenticated order, Lt. Commander Hunter wants to find out what that second message was all about. The situation just got grayer, and we are talking about the use of planet killing nuclear missiles here! So maybe we should hold off pulling the trigger until we’re sure. Right? But if we wait, the enemy gets to shoot first, and that’s good-bye California!
Such is the dilemma in the Crimson Tide story, but let’s make one thing clear. This scenario is in no way possible! This movie is fiction pure and simple, and about as close to real US Navy operations as Star Wars is to actual space travel.
This is however cracking entertainment, and a superb setup for two great actors to shine as their characters lead opposing forces for control of the ship, and its payload of nuclear missiles. Sure, there’s perhaps a little too much exposition from the supporting characters, explaining basic submarine operations to us land loving movie goers, but the overall effect is really entertaining.
Thumping along to Han Zimmer’s superb score, Crimson Tide had me on the edge of my seat as I gladly lost myself in the drama. Tony Scott’s usually frantic camera work and editing was thankfully toned to down to suit this film perfectly, and Michael Schiffer’s script does a great job of keeping this story movie reel. There are also some fun pop-culture laden moments courtesy of none other than Quentin Tarantino (uncredited).
This is not an accurate portrayal of navy operations, so keep that in mind. If you’re connected with the Navy, this film may irritate you with its many inaccuracies. The film earns its R rating with its sporadic bad language, and depictions of violence and death. These are very low-key however, and never cloud your focus on the main story elements.
This is decently filmed, but a HD showing on your TV will service the film well enough. A smaller screen will lessen the impact of this film.
Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington, playing two honorable men at odds and fighting over the right way to save the world. Both right, both wrong – two great performances!