A mutiny thriller that delivers the goods wholesale. Russian rebels have seized one of their government's nuclear missile bases and are threatening to attack the U.S.A. A patrolling US nuclear submarine is ordered to fire, but almost straight afterwards an incomplete counter order brings uncertainty. The submarine Captain and the Executive Officer come into conflict as to which order to follow, and thus the subs crew are torn as to which officer is right or wrong. Directed by Tony Scott, one could be forgiven for thinking that Crimson Tide would be an outlandish ball of explosions and slaughter, thankfully it isn't, as Scott gives us one of the best underwater thrillers going. Scintilating characters are cloaked in dynamic claustrophobia, and this coupled with the ever increasing unbearable tension, makes this a must see for fans of films that are scary because of what might happen, and not because of what many blockbuster film makers actually show you. This is not a standard good vs evil plot piece, or even a good vs insane cretin film, this pitches old school stickler for the rules Captain Ramsey against the deep thinking common sense purveyor Lt Commander Ron Hunter. Ramsey believes that the completed order, which is basically to blast the Russians before they blast us type thing, should be followed, Hunter on the other hand feels that the second incomplete order must be clarified before any action is taken, because after all this could be nuclear war! The film then twists and turns as the sub is divided into two factions, mutiny is rife, but what will the outcome be? Can the radio be fixed to complete the order? Will it be too late? All these questions are tensely drawn out by Scott to get the maximum impact from what is an admittedly standard global crisis in waiting story. No shortage of machismo here either, brutishly brilliant is how I find Gene Hackman in this, his Captain Ramsey is the quintessential leader of men. Then there is Denzel Washington as Ron Hunter, eloquently spoken and a voice of reason, his ruggedness coming to the fore as the submarine starts to implode. There are few better sights in 90s cinema than watching Hackman & Washington go at each other the way they do here, starting off as just a fractious relationship, it then explodes into a war of belief and wills. It's through these pair that the film's neutral stance shines bright, what would we do in similar circumstances? Who would we follow? Both men ethically right, yet both men accountable for probable disaster. This is a wonderful picture, a lesson in tough tension building that is perfectly wrung out by a rousing Han Zimmer score, with the only weak point being a multi written script that tries to fuse pop culture references with technical lingo, something which doesn't quite sit right. However, even that can't hurt the excellently unfolding sequence of events that closes quite brilliantly with a written piece that all of us should take note of. 9/10
Probably my favourite Tony Scott film, amidst stiff competition. The acting of both Hackman and Washington, plus the fine supporting cast, is top-drawer, and Scott keeps the suspense up, the film's as tight as a drum. It's rumoured that there were plenty of script doctors, including Quentin Tarantino, but that's no crime--especially when it works. One of my favourite submarine films--it's up there in my books with 'Destination Tokyo' (I haven't seen my DVD of 'Das Boot' yet). It's a great shame that Scott decided to take his life a few years back. He was a much better director than I used to give him credit for. I guess it's true that we don't realize just how good people are until they're gone. This film's essential for war film enthusiasts or those who enjoy suspense films or thrillers: It wouldn't be out of place in the oeuvres of, say, Sir Alfred Hitchcock or David Fincher, and would make a great double-bill with 'Lifeboat' or 'They Were Expendable'.
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