Crimson Tide is a new action/psychodrama about a mutiny aboard a U.S. nuclear submarine. When World War III is about to erupt thanks to Russian coup-artists, the USS Alabama, helmed by Captain Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) is sent to prepare for the worst. When the order to launch comes in, Ramsey's executive officer, Lt. Commander Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington), clashes with the Captain over a last-minute, incomplete order which could recall the missile launch. The result is mutiny, with half the ship siding with the Captain's single-minded, stubborn decision to fire, half standing with Hunter, who wants a confirmation before blowing up the world.
Sound thrilling? Well, after about 45 minutes of the two principals philosophizing about life and war, trading quips, and smoking cigars, then the action part of the film comes to life. Unfortunately, this prologue does little more than develop the characters like this: Captain Ramsey is a obstinate military man, Hunter is a thoughtful peace-lover. In fact, most of the lengthy dialogue is arranged to show just what a great guy Hunter is, and that Ramsey is on the verge of being a Captain Ahab, hunting the Russkies like they're a latter-day Moby Dick.
When the action sequences do finally come up, they start with a nonsensical galley fire (no one can put it out except Hunter, who--get this--actually pushes a button on the wall to save the day). Then there's a flooding bilge bay, and on this ultra-high-tech ship, the preferred tool for repairing a flooding sub is none other than a monkey wrench. When the radio breaks, the crew is fast at work soldering together enough wire and circuit boards to control the U.S. telephone system. All this talk about the film making the military look bad isn't quite right; instead, it just looks ridiculous.
This all may be quibbling, but the pure silliness of some of the film really detracts from the bulk of it, which is a gripping and tense thriller with two armed factions of men trying to either launch or stop the launch of ten of the Alabama's nuclear missiles. The chemistry between Hackman and Washington, while kept basically predictable, is still full of tension and repressed anger as the characters are forced to maintain a surface civility despite an obvious dislike underneath. The set constructed to recreate the USS Alabama and the sub combat scenes are incredibly realistic and make the film worth watching all by themselves.
Much has been made of the similarity between this film and movies like The Hunt for Red October, Top Gun (directed and produced by the same team that did Tide), and other genre pictures. While the inevitable similarities are apparent to some extent, they certainly don't overshadow the picture, and like the flaws discussed above, they don't keep Crimson Tide from being a worthwhile film.
The new unrated, extended edition is (of course) much longer, but also a much richer film. The DVD also inludes deleted scenes and two making-of featurettes.
Run time: 116 mins
In Theaters: Friday 12th May 1995
Box Office Worldwide: $157.4M
Distributed by: Buena Vista Internationa
Production compaines: Hollywood Pictures, Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Fresh: 41 Rotten: 6
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
Director: Tony Scott
Screenwriter: Michael Schiffer
Starring: Gene Hackman as Captain Frank Ramsey, Denzel Washington as Lt. Commander Ron Hunter, Viggo Mortensen as Lt. Peter 'WEAPS' Ince, James Gandolfini as Lt. Bobby Dougherty, Matt Craven as Lt. Roy Zimmer, USS Alabama Communications Officer, George Dzundza as Chief of the Boat, Rocky Carroll as Lt. Darik Westergaurd, Jaime Gomez as Officer of the Deck Mahoney, Michael Milhoan as Chief of the Watch Hunsicker, Scott Burkholder as T.S.O. Billy Linkletter, Danny Nucci as Petty Officer First Class Danny Rivetti, Lillo Brancato as Petty Officer Third Class Russell Vossler, Eric Bruskotter as Bennefield, Ricky Schroder as Lt. Paul Hellerman, Steve Zahn as William Barnes, Marcello Thedford as Lawson
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