Crimson Tide Review

If we must dive deep into the murky depths of the deep blue sea, Tony Scott, Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman are certainly the team that will offer the most entertainment. The third most powerful man in the world, the opening crawl says, is the captain of a nuclear submarine. Only Bill Clinton and a Russian are more powerful. Crimson Tide gives weight to such a proclamation, setting up a heavy story of international tensions that rely on Cold War ructions in the modern era. That war may have ended, but its impact and tensions between the two mighty powers of the world still linger. They must, considering Crimson Tide depends on the warring, fraught relations between the two.

But the relationship between Hunter (Washington) and his family couldn’t be stronger. He plays up the usual family-man prototype, and as he and Weps (Viggo Mortensen) realise that danger is growing, so too does Scott and this screenplay from Michael Schiffer. They are moving with the cliché of the genre. A cigar-chomping hero hires Hunter because his “name was at the top of the list,” which is navy jargon for Hunter being an exceptional asset to the team Ramsey (Hackman) assembles. That he is, and he is an asset to the actors Scott assembles also. With James Gandolfini wrapping up this exceptional leading cast, Crimson Tide can at least offer intense moments between these men. Lingering shots of them arguing and advancing their own agendas. It all comes together nicely.

For all its submarine exploits, the lingering effects of A Few Good Men were surely firmly set on the mind of Scott and company. If they could highlight the bad eggs and the recompense those few good ones would get for ousting them, then Crimson Tide would hit the same courtroom drama notes the Aaron Sorkin-written piece did, but also offer a thrilling bit of action to it. Communication breakdowns and moments of panic make up the bulk of Crimson Tide, and as these characters avert a horrible disaster, there is the sense that they shall soon face tribunal action. Hackman’s horrified face says it all, and with a bloodied Washington beside him, the implications of a definitively tense feature are cemented as good men struggling to identify the right course of action. It is the division of loyalty that strikes so incredibly well within Crimson Tide, and the performers that bring these moments to life are integral to its success.

There have been some strange sub-genre of capturing nautical panic. K-19: The Widowmaker tried, pairing its cast with Russian accents and real-world woes. What it lacked and Crimson Tide has in bucketloads is entertainment. It is a fun romp through a terrifying premise, which Scott builds on through exceptional leading performances. Crimson Tide is not so much an action film as it is a thriller with the pretence and fallout of your typical action flick. We can almost hear and see the explosions overhead, with espionage right in our grasp, but Scott’s focus on the real-time tensions of a submarine crew make for far more engaging, and interesting viewing.

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