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Crimson Tide

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4

*Also starring: George Dzundza, Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, Matt Craven, Lillo Brancato Jr., Rocky Carroll, Steve Zahn, Rick Schroder

Review by Dragan Antulov
2 stars out of 4

In the week following WTC bombing, many commentators couldn't fail to notice that America, same as many other countries in history, had its military prepared to fight the past rather than the future war. Same thing can be said for Hollywood, since in many 1990s films Russians continued to be convenient villains and the source of greatest danger for Western world, all that despite the collapse of Soviet Empire and its would-be successors being pathethic losers unable to restore the Evil Empire even in their back yard. One of such examples can be found in the plot of CRIMSON TIDE, 1995 submarine thriller directed by Tony Scott. The story begins with civil war erupting in Russia and anti-Western rebels seizing nuclear base in Vladivostok. American nuclear submarine "USS Alabama", commanded by old and experienced Captain Frank Ramsey (played by Gene Hackman), is sent to Pacific in order to watch over the base and retaliate in case of rebels launching nuclear strike on America. In the last minute his XO is replaced by Lieutenant Ron Hunter (played by Denzel Washington), intellectual whose humanist ideas of waging war create discomfort in no-nonsense Captain. Two of them are going to settle their differences, at least temporarily, as their vessel approcahes hostile waters and gets engaged in conflict with Russian renegade submarine. As a result, the communication equipment is damaged, but not after receiving the order to launch nuclear strike. This order was, however, followed with another one, which is interrupted and can't be deciphred. While Captain Ramsey wants to follow the order and launch the strike, his XO is convinced that the next message represents the cancellation of the original order. Not wanting to risk start of nuclear exchange over communication failure, Hunter starts a mutiny aboard the submarine.

CRIMSON TIDE is not the film that should enter Top 100 lists, but it nevertheless represents one of the brighter spots in the career of Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson. The reason for that can be found in the script by Michael Schiffer that manages to rise above the cliches and predictability of action film formula, and this accomplishment is even more impressive when we consider that CRIMSON TIDE in its original form became the object of script-doctoring by numerous writers like Robert Towne, Steven Zaillian and Quentin Tarantino. Usually the screenwriting by committee produces disastrous results, but not this time. The suspense and the action in this film is clearly constrained within the framework of the plot and terrible dilemma facing the main characters - whether to act and risk starting nuclear holocaust or show restraint and allow mother country to be anihillated. Even more interesting thing about CRIMSON TIDE is that this film doesn't take sides in this debate - both viewpoints are shown to be valid and justifiable under the circumstances. Good direction by Tony Scott and strong acting performances by Hackman, Washington and numerous character actors (among which Viggo Mortensen and George Dzundza are the most impressive) guarantee that this film is going to be as entertaining as it was thought-provoking. Even the usual Hollywood cop out ending and sometimes too boring musical score by Hans Zimmer aren't enough to diminish generally positive impression given by this film, one of the rare 1990s action films that is going to be as engaging now as it was half a decade ago.

Copyright 2001 Dragan Antulov

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