DUMPSTER DIVING #2: Crimson Tide – R.I.P Tony Scott

I wrote this before hearing of the tragic death of Tony Scott. So I would just like to take this chance to say thank you, Tony, for making intelligent blockbusters that have been wowing audiences for 30 years, and will continue to do so far into the future.


Up next was Tony Scott’s submarine based thriller, Crimson Tide.

The world is on the brink of World War 3. Russian extremists have rebelled against the Kremlin and announce they are willing to start a nuclear war against America. In response the US government sends out some of their nuclear subs, including the USS Alabama, captained by Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman).
Ramsey’s First Officer has been taken ill and Denzel Washington’s character, Ron Hunter, is appointed as his replacement.
A disrupted message then causes a mutiny on the ship, with half siding with Hunter and half with Ramsey. These two vastly different men must settle their differences before the world is blown to smithereens.
It’s these two characters who provide the most interesting drama; with Hunter representing the modern way of thinking (more analytical/theoretical/philosophical) and Hackman representing the old-school (gung-ho etc.). But Hackman is more than just the ‘oorah’ stereotype and his character is written with far more depth and exploration. This allows for some riveting verbal confrontations giving Hackman and Washington the chance to flex their acting muscles. The best examples of this are written and delivered with a sense of rhythm that transforms the scene into a thrilling verbal action sequence.
Hackman and Washington are ably supported by a fantastic cast, with even the smallest roles played superbly. Such superlative acting elevates the whole experience and, at times, delivers thrilling, heart-in-mouth moments.
However, such moments aren’t always as great as they could be and towards the end, many opportunities for gripping verbal exchanges feel wasted, instead relying on standard blockbuster clichés. One early exchange touches on the meaning of war; but such thought-provoking moments are never replicated.
I can’t finish his review without mentioning the unsung star of the piece: the submarine itself. The sets provide moments of both claustrophobia and of emptiness. With metal corridors and countless knobs and dials, at times it feels like a spaceship. It’s a whole different world under the sea, and the set design reflects that perfectly.

Crimson Tide does what the best films do, it takes the audience out of their comfort zones and provides them with new people to meet, new problems to face and new worlds to explore . . . . and eventually destroy.

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