(Review originally written at 11 February 2007)

"Crimson Tide" is a movie that has grown onto me in the last couple of years. The movie had never been really any of my favorites, I never really cared much about the story and never thought the movie was tense enough for a thriller, in which never enough happened. This has changed the recent years. I now see how relevant the movie is and I am able to appreciate what the movie tries to tell and of course also the performances from actors Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman, which already is reason enough to watch the movie.

Mutiny occurs on a nuclear submarine when the captain and his Lt. Commander disagree about firing a nuclear missile on the Russians, when the launch message is received, followed by an incomplete followup. Hackman is legally, by the Navel rules right, while Washington is morally right. So both are right in a way but you can't help routing for Denzel Washington, since Gene Hackman just basically plays a mean old piece of...Not that I mind though. It keeps the movie totally great and interesting to watch, since Washington and Hackman are just great in every sequences that they're together in. There always is a constant tension between them. They're different characters with different opinions and they perhaps never really liked each other but yet they always respect each other, right till the end. It provides the movie with some really effective and memorable moments.

The movie is filled with many more big names in it, of who most were still fairly unknown actors at the time, such as Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, Rick Schroder before his "NYPD Blue" period and Ryan Phillippe among others. So a real good job on the casting here, since it also features some already at the time established actors, that really all fit their roles really well.

But lets face it. How much tense and interesting can be going on in a movie set almost entirely in a submarine. The movie does a good job at keeping the movie always interesting to watch, despite its subject and settings, mainly thanks to a high pace. It keeps the movie surprisingly tense and provides the movie with a constant atmosphere of tension. The story itself is quite interesting and thought provoking, once you start thinking about it how much power a submarine captain actually has (had) and how he can unleash a nuclear war with the push of a button. They try to also put some sequences in it with deeper meanings and layers and it certainly provides the movie with some memorable moments but the pace it is too high to actually allow you to absorb things and think about it. The movie also starts to repeat itself after a while. It also features far too many technical details that the viewers just don't understand and only work distracting from the true story and atmosphere of the movie. It really doesn't make the "Crimson Tide" the best, or most tense, movie ever written, though its premise is really more than great thriller material. I can understand that they hired other writers (Robert Towne, Quentin Tarantino and Steven Zaillian) the spice up the movie a little, by putting in some more dialog, character development and deeper meanings. Yet the movie really doesn't feel as if it had been written and re-written by different writers. I think that we can also thank director Tony Scott for that, who provides the movie with one overall consistent fast style and atmosphere.

Some of the things that really make this movie better than just your average submarine movie is the very lively cinematography by Dariusz Wolski and the suiting musical score by Hans Zimmer, that works very effective and powerful for some of the sequences. In a way this movie also was his big Hollywood breakthrough, though he had composed some successful Hollywood scores before. Both really lift the movie to an higher level.

Not an essential viewing (though perhaps it are Washington and Hackman that still make the movie one) but nevertheless a movie worth seeing if you can appreciate a well constructed movie, set almost entirely aboard a submarine.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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