Time: 110 Minutes
Denzel Washington as Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter
Gene Hackman as Captain Frank Ramsey
George Dzundza as Chief of the Boat Walters (COB)
Matt Craven as Lieutenant Roy Zimmer
Viggo Mortensen as Lieutenant Peter Ince
James Gandolfini as Lieutenant Bobby Dougherty
Director: Tony Scott
The Captain of a submarine (Gene Hackman) wants to launch an attack while his deputy (Denzel Washington) wants to wait for confirmation. Their conflict escalates into a mutiny with both of them fighting for the command of the ship.
I heard of Crimson Tide for a while, I knew of it as a submarine movie directed by Tony Scott and starring Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman. It was on my list of movies to check out eventually but for whatever reason I hadn’t checked it out yet. Eventually I did watch it and I was quite surprised at how good it was.
The plot is great, it is a predictable yet entertaining story. It is always so kinetic from beginning to end, tightly crafted, and just all around suspenseful, with never a dull moment here. The pacing is just right, it can feel a little slow in the beginning as it is setting the scene and characters, but once it gets going, it really gets going. The second and third acts are particularly intense, without a stopping point. One of the biggest surprises is that it places character and conflict ahead of the action. Usually you’d expect this type of film to constantly cut away to the action as the drama unfolds, however Tony Scott keeps the distractions to a minimum, and it’s generally a very contained movie. The majority of the movie focuses its attention on the colliding ideals of the weathered Lieutenant Commander (Gene Hackman), and his vigilant new XO Captain (Denzel Washington). The moral greyness of the dilemma at the forefront of the movie is well handled, with a surprising amount of depth given to the nature of military procedure in the case of an emergency launch, and the importance of following protocol. Much of the tension the movie wrings from the internal conflict between the two leads, particularly with the tense and heated dialogue. As everything slowly builds up within that clash of ideologies, it just only feels like you could expect it all to blow anytime soon. Scott really drives home the fact that these men are alone, with just as many questions as the audience. Something also great is that despite some of what Hackman’s character does, there’s no clear-cut villain here really, just two men who both firmly believe that they are doing the right thing. Quentin Tarantino actually did some script-doctoring on this movie, but his contributions were probably the weakest part of the movie, with the comic book and Star Trek references being very out of place with the rest of the movie. On the whole though, Crimson Tide is very entertaining and thrilling from beginning to end.
The acting is great from everyone, but it mostly comes down to Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington in the lead roles, both of whom deliver really solid performances. It’s thrilling seeing the two go at each other. I do feel like Washington’s character could’ve been better developed or defined really, though he did the job alright. Hackman’s character of Ramsey (the commander) however is very well written, with a good character arc. The supporting cast all bring their A-games too including James Gandolfini and Viggo Mortensen.
Tony Scott’s direction is great and handles everything well. He keeps everything so fittingly tense, especially given the claustrophobia of the film’s setting, as well as strain applied to the ticking clock elements. It’s a great looking movie too, it looks fantastic with the colours, the set designs are convincing, and even the early CGI special effects are used appropriately enough. Finally, Hans Zimmer composes a bombastic yet very effective score.
Crimson Tide is an effective and claustrophobic submarine thriller, and much better than I thought it would be. The story is simple yet one that you get invested in, it’s directed incredibly well, tense throughout, and has some strong performances, especially from Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington. One of Tony Scott’s best.