Crimson Tide

 

No, it’s not a new laundry detergent designed to get those nasty bloodstains. It’s the newest macho-man action thriller from director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Revenge) and producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (Beverly Hills Cop, Dangerous Minds).

In what might honestly be called a remake of 1954’s The Caine Mutiny, Gene Hackman plays the skipper of a US nuclear submarine. As the movie’s Captain Queeg, Hackman’s Ramsey is a leftover from the Cold War, a man determined to defeat the Russians at something, damn the cost. Denzel Washington plays the ship’s newest executive officer.

The US is pushed to the brink of war with the Russians, and an extremely important message from up above has been cut off. Does Captain Ramsey simply go ahead with his initial “fire all torpedoes” order, or does he submit to Washington, going against his own code of ethics, and stand down until assured of the orders?

This is the greatest sub movie since The Hunt For Red October sailed in 1990. There is so much tension in the film that some of the sailors on board can cut it up and dish it out as a souffle. What’s worse, the sub’s officer corps has split into two distinct camps: those who stay with the captain, no matter what, and those who somewhat reluctantly follow Washington’s say-so. If you think getting everyone in your family to agree on what would be a good choice for dinner is difficult, think about the massive dissention in this tiny shoebox of a home. These gentlemen have a few precious hours to figure out their plan of attack.

There is a surprisingly high amount of action in a movie that takes place almost solely in a submarine. One might figure, “How much action can there be? After all, it’s not like they’re going to run another submarine off the road.” No, that’s true, but you do get gunfire in the sub, the requisite buoy-launching, and a dog peeing down a floor grate.

If this were a placid drama, both Hackman and Washington would certainly be up for Oscars. But this is a big-budget actioner, so merit is ignored. Both actors are superb, compelling in their interpretations and vivid in their characterizations. The ending is a bit predictable, but that’s mere quibbling. Crimson Tide is an absolute winner.

Crimson Tide: A-

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