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As CRIMSON TIDE opens we visit various crew members of the USS Alabama as
they bid farewell to their loved ones. For one man, Lt. Cmdr. Ron Hunter
(Denzel Washington), it will be his first time as second in command of a
nuclear submarine. Capt. Frank Ramesy (Gene Hackman) is in charge and is
not shy about letting everyone know. He is a seasoned veteran, as
juxtaposed with the young idealistic Hunter. The early scenes do much to
set up the main conflict of the film. For example when members of the
discuss Carl Von Clausewitz, and his 1832 work Vom Kriege ("On War"), the
intellectual showdown occurs between Ramesy and Hunter. This scene not
heightens the tension, but also reveals the different philosophies of
two men, what they believe in, why they are there. This short scene goes
long way to setting up why each of these characters are so unbending when
the crisis presents itself.
The Crisis: The ship has been damaged and the EAM contact that has been received is disjointed. The Russian force (who is never very carefully explained) is fueling rockets for use against the US. That's all they know. The captain wants to surface and fire, Hunter thinks he's wrong. Factions form, but the film does a good job presenting a good argument for both desicions (although you get the sense that the film makers lean towards the "dove" side rather than the "hawks"). As tensions mount, there are various shifts in power and the crew stands divided. Every member of the crew watching as the minutes tick by, closer and closer to the final moment of truth...
Hackman is at the top of his form here as the relentlessly tough Ramesy. When given a good script with room to work, there is few better at creating a solid performance. The looks he gives, the way he uses his eyes, his speech patterns, simply wonderful to watch. Washington is just as good as Hunter, and the showdown between these two men, near the end, sends sparks flying off the screen. The rest of the cast is filled out with strong actors: Matt Craven, George Dzundza, (pre LOTR's) Viggo Mortensen, and (pre 'Sopranos') James Gandolfini.
As is well known, the script received various rewrites from Robert Towne (the Clausewitz scene), Steve Zaillian, and Quentin Tarantino (the Silver Surfer references, the scene where the crew chimes in about other submarine movies). All these different contributions blends fairly well together. The story is tough and direct, and touches on points that heighten the tension. The photography, by Dariusz Wolski (DARK CITY, THE CROW), is tight and atmospheric; Hans Zimmer's score pounding and reflective. The VIP vote, however, goes to Tony Scott, who proves himself with this film. He knows when to hold shots and doesn't rush the action (as he did with TOP GUN); he paces the film well and let's his actors work for him. CRIMSON TIDE is an entertaining and challenging film that, along with films like THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER and DAS BOOT, may set the high water mark (forgive the pun) for the genre. 9/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Crimson Tide possesses one of the most intense moments in film: two great
actors eye-to-eye, portraying characters absolutely certain of their
actions, absolutely convinced that the other's course will lead to disaster.
A submarine commander (Hackman) and his second-in-command (Washington) are
both shouting at the same time, each ordering the next ranking officer
(Dzundza) to arrest the other. Washington believes, with good reason that
Hackman is unfit to command because he is disregarding naval procedures.
Hackman believes, with good reason, that Washington is disobeying an order
and instigating a mutiny. A possible nuclear exchange and the deaths of
billions hang in the balance. Dzundza knows that he must make the correct
decision, regardless of his like or dislike of each of his
There are traditional incidents that arise in submarine stories: fires, floods, sinking to the bottom, torpedoes, loss of communication. (After all, what more can you do in such a small set?) Crimson Tide has its share, but does them well: you won't be bored just because you have seen subs in the same situation before. The movie's major conflict arises over a very tense, crucially significant incident, a believable situation that could arise and, unresolved, lead to catastrophe for more than just the boat.
Hackman is always excellent portraying a character with depth. As the captain he can command respect and obedience with a growl, a steely look, an angry shout, or a wicked joke. In contrast, Washington's calm, strong, logical intensity is the immovable rock to Hackman's irresistible force. When his eyes bore into you (as in remember Glory and Philadelphia?) you feel his sincerity and strength in your bones.
Crimson Tide has genuine, believable characters, edge-of-your-seat tension, and crackling, intense interchanges between two of my favorite actors. I recommend it as a thinking person's submarine movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
( I wrote a lot more but had to edit cause of the 1000 word limit) As a
drama Hollywood type sub flick, I gave Crimson Tide a 6. But I just
watched it on HBO tonight and have to say it is one of the most
unrealistic sub movies I've ever seen. I was in the silent service and
qualified in submarines. Of course a lot of what I'll write would not
bother the casual viewer, but the discrepancies, details and plot were
just too much to overlook.
To start with, Gene Hackman's dog coming underway with him is a load of Huey and really made me look down on this picture from the beginning. The Chief of Naval Operations himself would not or could not bring a pet on a ship with him.
They threw in a few catchy phrases and buzz words but for the most part the terminology used in the control room was made up. Even for an Ohio class boat the set for the movie's submarine was entirely too spacious. The "crawl spaces" the XO used to sneak into the control room was ludicrous. Submarines do not have anything like that. They are tightly packed with equipment and machinery and simply do not have that kind of space.
I still don't understand how the reactor was scrammed and lost propulsion from the torpedo that hit in the stern and caused all that flooding. If anything was damaged that badly, it's not getting fixed at sea. This isn't Star Trek.
The radio scenario was absolute rubbish as well. There are so many redundant comms systems on board and inside the radio shack, no way would one receiver getting fried completely isolate the ship from command authority. The EAMs might have looked good on the screen but the real deal and Sealed Authentication System is so much more complicated, it's not even funny. There is literally dozens of yellow pages thick manuals covering nuclear command and control systems, and without going into classified details, I cannot believe something like this could ever happen on board a US submarine.
There is no way people would be aiming guns around like they were in the movie either. On a real submarine which is packed with 3000 pound hydraulics and high pressure air systems, 1 bullet could kill everyone in a compartment in which it was discharged. The beginning of the movie with the fire in the galley was a load too. Fires are the biggest threat to ships safety and if they had a fire in real life, the CO would immediately surface the ship to fight it. A fire in such an enclosed space, would make so much smoke, within minutes you couldn't see your hand in front of your face, and the ship would have to emergency ventilate. Let alone the nonchalant way they dealt with that one guy dying. And of course no real submarine CO would run a drill 2 minutes after securing from a real fire. If someone was killed in a casualty, the CO would be sweating bullets.
Tony Soprano making that fat dude drop and do push ups on the bus. Talk about unprofessional. People have an unrealistic view of military discipline. That may happen in boot camp but not in the real fleet. Also that COB was unbelievably fat. No he wouldn't fit on a submarine and they don't even let people that big in the military.
Also, these SSBN's are on tightly regimented patrol cycles, with 2 crews. There are always some on patrol in alert status. The XO and weps wouldn't get paged to get underway. If they were on their off-crew period, the other crew, blue or gold would have the ship and it would already be at sea. If something goes down, you need subs ready to launch already, you may not have the luxury of even the time it took the Alabama to get underway.
The entire crew wears puppy suits, underway, officers included. Also you don't salute underway. If the captain walks by you acknowledge him but don't salute. The movie really made enlisted people look dumb imo. They are the experts on the ship's systems. And officers usually are the ones asking the dumb questions. The fight in the crew's mess over the silver surfer was a huge stretch. They give psych tests and such to submariners, one of the main goals to weed out people who can't handle stress and are hot heads. Not to say people wouldn't argue but if they were throwing punches, they'd have both been written up and in deep ****.
And the last thing was the ending. If anything remotely happened like this in real life, you can bet the Commanding Officer who held a loaded gun to an innocents head would be court marshaled and sent to prison. Not just allowed to quietly retire. Also no CO has the pull to just get their XO a command. Less than half of XOs even make the cut and get command. You have to be the creme de la creme to get command of a nuclear submarine and follow a strict career outline.
It was an enjoyable movie. But I've read some of the threads about, who's side would you be on, Hackman's or Washington's, and really the whole scenario is just beyond anything that is remotely reasonable!
This movie was the "Deep Impact" of sub flicks. Might as well have said Alabama was going to drill through the bottom of the ocean floor and disturb the earth's core to cause a magnetic flux that would stop the Russian missiles from launching. LOL Bottom line, its a decent flick, but don't think it is even close to accurate or realistic.
Enjoyable, good tension, good dilemma, good cast. But:
You have a movie like this where either Washington's or Hackman's character side could be right about their course of action. The aim of the movie, ostensibly, is to present both sides and let the viewer figure out which is the correct course.
But you can't possibly side with Hackman, can you?
After all, his character goes nuts when everything starts happening. His character is possibly racist. And his character is prepared to launch nukes. Washington's character is, quite nobly, none of those things.
Ho hum. Hollywood audience manipulation at its finest.
Would it kill these writers and producers to present a dilemma movie in an intelligent fashion for once? I'd like to struggle with "who's right and who's wrong?" just once in my moviegoing life.
The suspense is relentless in this believable, tense and superbly acted
war drama. One of the best modern war movies I have seen, Crimson Tide
is a story about strained loyalty, respect, command, discipline, power,
and military practice. Hackman and Washington are perfectly cast as an
older battle-hardened nuclear submarine captain and his younger, less
experienced but highly educated executive officer, caught in a crisis
of potentially world-threatening proportions. Pursued by an enemy
submarine, the USS Alabama has nuclear warheads aimed and ready to fire
as a pre-emptive strike against a Russian rebel commanding his own
nuclear arsenal. The Alabama is commanded to launch, and begins
preparations, but the enemy sub attacks, knocking out all
communications just as a second command is being received. The nature
of that second command and what to do about then becomes the key
problem that the Captain and XO have to deal with. Suffice to say, they
do not agree on how to proceed, and the remainder of the film is a
struggle between the two men and those who support each, in a crippled
but still lethal sub, with the fate of the world hanging in the
What's is amazing about Michael Schiffer's story is its plausibility. The basic scenario upon which the script is based could happen. The cast - all of them - are spectacular, and the directing is masterful. Although some of the behavior of the men aboard the Alabama seems improbable at times, given the military realities of chain of command and discipline, the sheer performance power of this film's cast and production team make it all seem very real and extremely compelling. the characters are HUGE, complex, and real. More than just a cautionary tale, this is a very human drama about who people become under extreme conditions, and how they work out problems to reach solutions, or fail to do so. If that final sentence sounds cryptic, then let it entice you to see the film so you can figure out what I mean for yourself.
Tense little action thriller on par with "The Hunt for Red October" has a nuclear submarine commander (Gene Hackman) and his new second-in-command (Denzel Washington) getting in a chess match of words and wits ala "Mutiny on the Bounty". Russian rebels may be about to launch nuclear missiles at any moment. Commands come through for Hackman to detonate the weapons from their ship, but then another message after that one which is incomplete splits the entire crew. Hackman thinks it is time to take control with aggression while Washington believes that this is way too important without knowing everything there is to know. A wide range of characters on the submarine (which includes Viggo Mortensen, Steve Zahn, James Gandolfini, Rick Schroeder, George Dzundza) must decide which of the all-world performers they are going to side with. The screenplay is mediocre really, but Hackman and Washington know how to overcome that and director Tony Scott keeps the pulse of his audience in high over-drive. Definitely an acceptable piece from the genre. 4 stars out of 5.
This is the type of movie Tony Scott should have stuck to creating. While most Jerry Bruckheimer films prove to be bad, modern interpretations of old school martial arts movies, this was one of the better films Bruckheimer ever produced. While the story was completely plot-driven and the performances a little over the top, the rivalry between Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman made this film a cut above the rest of the trash Bruckheimer tends to produce. While simple and direct, it proves to be effective in the annals of storytelling, never overindulging the viewer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I find it interesting watching movies today that are realistically not
that old, but due to the way the world stage has changed today, could
never really be made in their current form.
Crimson Tide is an action/drama movie centering around the events on an American nuclear submarine during a fictional coup in the old Soviet Union where a rebel faction gains control of a Soviet nuclear base.
The main conflict in the story is between the Captain (Gene Hackman) and the Executive Officer (Denzel Washington), who both represent two very different Naval Officer types. Hackman is the old Cold Warrior (don't think about the order, your job is to just do it) and Washington is the "new breed" (educated and taught to think about the actions they are asked to undertake). Orders are received and both respond very differently to the same order.
Overall, the story flows well and the drama is gripping. Technical flaws abound (as is the case with most of these sort of stories), but nothing that really detracts from the story (although, it does leave you wondering if a situation like this would be possible....you just hope there is procedure in place somewhere to stop it!)
Crimson Tide is awesome in the way it creates intensity and non-stop adrenaline rushes using scenes full of action, and scenes that aren't. The torpedo attack with the Russian sub was so fast-paced and packed with energy that it makes you bounce in your seat. Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington gave awesome performances, and their growing tension towards each other is enough to keep the excitement at a consistent high through the last half of the film. I don't appreciate how Hackman's character is regarded by most moviegoers as a mad man. He is just simply a seasoned, tough-as-nails military officer who must assume that the US is in danger, and he must stick by the orders that require him to go to drastic measures to protect us. The director did a good job at raising the tension, even though the ending was very predictable. The message at the very start of the film set the perfect tone. The entire film is in a way scary by making us wonder if what would happen in a situation like this, and how could the military establish proper operating procedures for it. However, the message at the end of the film re-establishes some hope. 9/10, and I love the creative title.
"Crimson Tide" is one of my favorites and to me is the best submarine
movie ever made. And I don't understand why people say the "The Hunt
for Red October" is THE submarine film. Because, to me THFRO was very
long and moved at a snail's pace, and also the murky underwater action
scenes were hard to look at because you could hardly see what was going
However, "Crimson Tide" is an improvement in my opinion. It's over 2 hours long, but its pace moves by so fast that you're not gonna realize it. But if you're looking for tons of explosions and gunfire, then this ain't your kind of movie, it happens to be more suspense-oriented. Otherwise, you can just check out "Die Hard", "Terminator" or "Aliens", for the action-packed extravaganza that most people want. But I guess the scene in which the subs face off and each are firing the torpedoes at each other could be considered action. And that scene in probably the best part of the entire movie since there is no way anyone could resist the suspense and especially when the sub is sinking and the water pressure is rising and it could compress at any second.
Without going on and on too much I'll just give the basic premise of the movie so you won't get too confused. It's been a couple years after the Soviet Union collapsed and now a radical leader and his followers are trying to takeover the Russian government and is threatening to launch nuclear missiles into both the United States and Russia itself if they interfere with him. And the USA sends a submarine with nuclear missiles out to the Pacific Ocean in case the event of when the Russian missiles are launched and they could instantly counter-attack. But the two commanding officers clash on whether or not the missiles should be fired since they are debating if Russia is attacking or not. But since they are so far down in sea level, they can't communicate to get their orders. At first, it may seem uninteresting, but you'll realize how much suspense and tension is in here when you see it.
As for the acting, well what can I say? Denzel Washington has gotta be the greatest method actor in Hollywood right now and "Crimson Tide" is a prime example. So far in his career, he already won an Oscar for "Glory" and "Training Day" in which he gave two outstanding performances that will forever be remembered in Hollywood. But his work in "Crimson Tide" is, and I dare say, tops both of his Oscar-winning performances. He plays the lead role as Lt. Commander Ron Hunter, who is objecting his Captain's orders to attack Russia since it would cause a complete nuclear holocaust with billions of deaths involved.
Gene Hackman, who is another Hollywood favorite, is Captain Frank Ramsey, the crazy old guy who will stop at nothing to ensure that World War III between the USA and Russia happens. His character even preferred to have a missile drill happening when the sub had a fire and its safety was endangered, and as a result an officer lost his life.
Hackman's character represents the way the USA was before in a time of war, and they seeked anything to get involved in that war so other countries would fear them. Washington's character symbolizes what the USA is like during the 1990's and they would try to stay as neutral as possible. Also, the scene when Denzel and Gene are arguing and shouting over each other about the nukes and before the mutiny happens has gotta be one of the greatest acted scenes ever. And this basically provides the tension that makes "Crimson Tide" what it is as a film. And the bulk of the movie, the question "Will they launch or not?" goes on. Just watch it and found out.
Also, the dialogue is among the best I've ever heard, and heck, I'll say that it even challenges "Pulp Fiction" as having some of the best lines ever. What's interesting is that Quentin Tarantino provided some of it in here and that's clearly evident. The Silver Surfer reference and the submarine movie trivia are the real punch-ups here. My favorite line from this is "You don't put on a condom unless you're gonna f**k!".
"Crimson Tide" is an excellent thriller movie that stands out because of the suspense, the tension, the acting and the punchy dialogue. Do yourself a favor and forget "The Hunt for Red October"! "Crimson Tide" will blow you away!
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