MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Action Thriller/Stars: Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, George Dzundza, Matt Craven, Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, Rocky Carroll, Jaime P. Gomez, Michael Milhoan, Scott Burkholder, Danny Nucci, Lillo Brancato, Jr., Rick Schroder, Steve Zahn, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Ryan Phillippe, Eric Bruskotter, Daniel von Bargen, Jason Robards, Jim Reid Boyce/Runtime: 116 minutes
I think it is safe to say that there are a few genres of movie magic which manage to beat the odds and give us movies that are by and large either good or great and there is nowhere near as many entries that are either fair or bad. An example of a genre that I think fits this fairly well is baseball films as for every The Fan (from 1996), we also have Major League, Field of Dreams, and The Natural among others so I think it’s a fair trade though in all fairness I do have a fondness for The Fan. Another one, and one that is more closely tied to the film I am reviewing today, is slices of cinematic pie set onboard a submarine. Indeed for every U-571, we get Run Silent Run Deep, Das Boot, The Hunt for Red October, and of course the movie I am reviewing today, 1995’s Crimson Tide. Yet even though Das Boot is the undisputed champion of the submarine sub-genre (no pun intended) to say nothing of a cinematic masterpiece, that’s not to say Crimson Tide is a slouch in this genre. Far from it actually. Indeed Crimson Tide is actually a riveting, suspenseful, and extremely well made movie that in practically every aspect is just a genuinely great slice of cinematic pie to say nothing of one of the finest submarine films as well as one of the finest action movies to be gifted to audiences in the decade known as the 90s.
The plot is as follows: As this slice of cinematic pie gets underway, we see that the world is on the cusp of another global crisis due to the fact that a Russian extremist has parted ways with the rest of the country and is rounding up significant support from members of Russia’s military to the point that he and his allies have managed to take over military bases and several submarines of both an attack and a nuclear variety. Suffice it to say Russia is now engaged in an all-out civil war that has the potential to cause fallout to the United States and other countries that might see this as potentially hazardous to their respective ways of life. It is in this turbulent climate that we are introduced to a U.S. Navy Captain by the name of Frank Ramsey. Ramsey, we soon learn, is the captain of a nuclear sub known as the Alabama that has way more nukes onboard than any other sub in the U.S. arsenal. Yet when Ramsey’s X.O. allegedly comes down with appendicitis, we soon see that Ramsey selects a Lt. Cmdr. by the name of Ron Hunter to replace him. Yet not long after the Alabama sets out, we see that this new X.O. right off the bat disagree with Ramsey a little bit over Ramsey’s choice on when to run a drill which really helps to distinguish the differing philosophies held by the 2 men. Suffice it to say that when the Alabama finds out that these Russian extremists are getting missiles ready to potentially strike the United States with, they receive orders to annihilate a collection of targets courtesy of a good ol’ fashioned nuclear attack. Yet not long after receiving this order, we see a Russian sub engage the Alabama in combat and whilst the ‘Bama is able to get out of this particular jam, we see that the comms are banged up horribly and whilst a new message about their assignment is on the way in. From there, we see that the Captain and X.O. will engage in a potentially deadly conflict of their own in regards to whether to launch the missiles or not with not just the lives of the crew, but potentially the world hanging in the balance….
Now if you were to try and really pinpoint the exact factor that makes this movie as potent and riveting as it is, then I think you might find yourself facing quite the impossible task ahead of you since the reason this slice of cinematic pie is as strong as is it turns out to be is pretty much every possible thing you can think of that goes into making a movie both behind and in front of the camera. Right off the bat and in regards to the latter, I can safely say that if your movie is one that has iconic thespians Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman in the lead roles then this results in your movie instantly getting a lot more attention and prestige from both the casual movie goer and the Hollywood insider than it would otherwise. Alas, it should come as no surprise then to learn dear reader that both of these legendary leading men manage to give performances that are equal parts riveting, taut, and iconic all rolled into one. I mean let’s face it: Denzel has always been one actor who is always a highlight of any movie that he is a part of and has at least 3 Oscar nods and 2 Oscars to his name. Hackman meanwhile is also a 2-time Oscar winner, but is also just one of those names that has always been a true legend of cinema since his breakthrough performance in 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde and who always, before retiring in 2004, gave grade-A quality performances in everything he did. Yet even though neither of these acting icons even garnered an acting nod for their performance in this slice of cinematic pie, I think it should be said that both of these legends are operating at the peak of their acting prowess whilst also providing a wonderful range and a dynamic that is fanfreakingtastic from beginning to end. Yet I can thankfully also say that these 2 acting titans aren’t the only amazing elements that this slice of cinematic pie is working with. I say that not only because of what I cover in the next paragraph, but also because this is one slice of cinematic pie that is also blessed with a smattering of terrific co-starring performances from a collection of talent that were among the finest the 90s sought fit to give us including, but not limited to, James Gandolfini (who I still feel was taken from us way too soon), pre-Lord of the Rings Viggo Mortensen, George Dzundza (who I have liked as an actor since his work as Michael Douglas’ partner in Basic Instinct), and even early work from NCIS’ Rocky Carroll (though I still like to think he’s secretly playing Leon Vance from that show in this) as well as Steve Zahn and Ryan Phillippe respectively. Suffice it to say that the acting in this riveting film is a collection of potent and powerful performances led by 2 men who throughout their careers have given us performances that are just that and so much more.
As for the other components that I only briefly touched on in the earlier paragraph, I think the first one that is most assuredly worth mentioning is the fact that this film’s helmer Tony Scott, brother of Ripley, was one film helmer who before his untimely passing knew how to make an entry in the action genre of movie magic that was riveting and yet also daring in the best way possible. Yes the man is perhaps best known for an iconic slice of cinematic pie from 1986 known simply as Top Gun, but it is my firm and steadfast belief that Crimson Tide might just be the best movie that Tony Scott ever sought fit to give us with all due respect of course to such entries in his filmography as the thrilling Man on Fire or Unstoppable and the actually not bad Beverly Hills Cop 2. Plus, alongside the top-tier performances that we get in this movie, Scott has further supported this film courtesy of a wonderful partnership with iconic composer Hans Zimmer whose musical accompaniment for this film is one of the most iconic scores ever put in an entry in the action genre of movie magic though it does sound a fair degree like another one he did for Touchstone a year later for Michael Bay’s riveting Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, and Ed Harris-starring thrill ride The Rock. Finally, I think it is safe to say that no genuinely good action movie can be called genuinely good if the effects in it are not up to snuff and suffice it to say the effects in this film are most certainly up to the challenge of being as great as everything else in the film and most assuredly do deliver on that promised potential. Suffice it to say that with all of these ingredients working together in such lovely synchronicity what you get at the end of the day is not just a movie that every serious fan of the action genre needs to see at least once, but also a movie that I think every casual movie lover needs to see at least once too.
All in all I think it’s safe to say that the slice of cinematic pie that is Crimson Tide is one that has an unusually but very welcome high amount of amazing elements to its name. First and foremost, it stars a pair of powerhouse performers from the land of movie magic who are also easily 2 of the finest talents of their respective generations in not only Denzel Washington, but also Gene Hackman and they are both the best kind of electric and magnetic possible. In addition, our dynamic co-leads are also backed up phenomenally well courtesy of a supporting cast that are (or in one’s case were) some truly gifted and underrated performers including Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, Steve Zahn, and George Dzundza among others. On top of everything else, this slice of cinematic pie is helmed by the iconic film director Tony Scott whose filmography has, among its entries, 1986’s Top Gun, 1998’s engaging Enemy of the State, the 2004 thrill ride Man on Fire, and 2010’s Unstoppable. Suffice it to say when you combine these elements alongside a script that is the best mix possible of suspenseful and riveting as well as a phenomenal musical accompaniment you get a movie that is guaranteed to be a hit with both critics and the casual movie goer. Suffice it to say that Crimson Tide is a slice of cinematic pie that is as engaging and riveting today as it was when it first came out all the way back in 1995. On a scale of 1-5 I give Crimson Tide “95” a solid 4 out of 5.