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Crimson Tide
1995 - R - Mins.
Director: Tony Scott
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer, Don Simpson
Written By: Michael Schiffer, Richard P. Henrick
Starring: Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, Viggo Mortensen, George Dzundza, Matt Craven
Review by: John Ulmer
"Crimson Tide" falls alongside the other great submarine movies, such as "The Hunt for Red October" and "U-571." It's more of a thriller that takes place in a submarine as opposed to a submarine thriller. It's about command, power and it holds a startling message about just how much authority a nuclear submarine captain is able to obtain.

It starts on the verge of World War III. Russian rebels have taken over one of the ICBM bases in the USSR. Russia threatens to strike the United States with nuclear weapons if they become involved in the affairs of the country. Alarmed by the prospect of a nuclear war, the U.S.S. Alabama, a nuclear submarine headed by Captain Ramsey (Gene Hackman), is deplyed into the ocean, and a family man named Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington) is posted on the ship as the Captain's XO.

Underlying tensions heighten aboard the Alabama. Captain Ramsey carries a smirk and makes subtle criticisms aimed at Hunter throughout the film. Ramsey is trigger-happy man, and after a scrambled message comes through to the ship, Ramsey takes it as a message indicating war, and he is ready to deploy nuclear missiles in the general direction of Russia as soon as the message comes through. However, Hunter believes that the message could mean something else--perhaps, even, peace--and so he urges Captain Ramsey to delay the launch of the missiles and to wait for another attack confirmation. Ramsey doesn't want to wait--he is sure that Russia has attacked the United States and that his orders are to return attack. But Hunter realizes that if there isn't a war, and that if Russia has backed down, and they fire nuclear missiles, Russia will return the attack and launch missiles at America--and the entire world could soon be burnt to a crisp.

"Crimson Tide" is a film carrying the startling realization that the fate of the world can lie in the captain of a ship's hands. A sudden whim could end in the loss of millions of human lives. "Crimson Tide" is also a claustraphobic thriller--one that gets under your skin and gives you the jitters. This movie is more thrilling and scary than some complete thrillers.

The performances in "Crimson Tide" are extraordinary--Denzel Washington is able to make us believe he is a moral man. Gene Hackman is able to make us believe that his character is not. Washington is the ideal family man, whereas Hackman's lack of warmth and loving (and signs of a non-existent family) are clear when he makes a remark about the similarities between cheerleaders and the horses.

The movie was directed by Tony Scott, who was behind the Quentin Tarantino-penned "True Romance," the Bobby De Niro remake movie "The Fan," and the spy thriller "Spy Game." I have seen neither of the two former films, but after seeing "Crimson Tide," I am more than interested in seeing both of them.

Note: The movie ends with a message informing us that in 1995 the ability to launch nuclear missiles at anything or anyone will no longer rest in the hands of submarine captains, or any captains, for that matter. The decision to launch nuclear missiles can and will only be decided by the President of the United States of America. Maybe they should make a movie about a trigger-happy president--now there's an idea...
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

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