With Russia rebels having taken control of a nuclear base and threatening war, US nuclear submarine The USS Alabama is sent to Russian waters. As tough, old-school Captain Ramsey (Hackman) is in need of a new second-in-command, Ron Hunter (Washington) is promoted to be the sub’s XO, despite an open clash of personalities between the two. When the Alabama receives an order to fire on the Russians and then another incomplete counter-order, Ramsey is set on firing but Hunter wants to wait for confirmation…
Often tense and occasionally quite thrilling, Crimson Tide is one of Tony Scott’s better pictures. Sure, it’s still a commercial, crowd-pleasing blockbuster, but the confinements of the premise prevent Scott from indulging his usual tiresome actiony fallbacks (IE, since we’re in a sub for virtually the whole movie there can’t be any car chases or shootouts). Essentially, it boils down to Gene Hackman’s old-school rule-follower saying “Let’s fire!” and Denzel Washington’s new-school thinker arguing “Let’s hold off!”, but both give predictably watchable performances. But while the battle of wills is great, some of the geeky dialogue (which was very likely the result of Quentin Tarantino’s uncredited script polish) stands out like a sore fanboy thumb. After all, can you really imagine marines getting in a fight over which version of a comic book character they prefer? Seriously? Elsewhere though, there is top support from Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, and George Dzundza.
Often tense and occasionally thrilling, Crimson Tide is one of Tony Scott’s better pictures.