Unrated Extended Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, George Dzundza, Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, Matt Craven
Director: Tony Scott
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Hollywood
Features: See Review
Length: 123 Minutes
Release Date: May 16, 2006

“Captain, I cannot concur.”

“Repeat my command.”

“Sir, we don’t know what this message means. Our target package could’ve changed.”


“Hell no you won’t, sir.”

Film ***1/2

What would happen if there were a clash of ideas and tactics between a submarine commander and the executive officer? That’s the thrilling focus of director Tony Scott’s engaging and intense thriller, Crimson Tide. It’s rare to find a mainstream piece of cinematic entertainment that combines great acting, and sharp writing with heart-stopping action and intensity, but this is certainly a movie with all of those qualities, and then some.

The story opens with Russia being suspected of attempting to ignite a nuclear war. The life-sized U.S. nuclear sumbmarine, U.S.S. Alabama, is deployed to sail near Russia to prevent the outbreak of war. The captain of the sub, Ramsey (Gene Hackman), appoints a new executive officer in the form of Lt. Commander Hunter (Denzel Washington). Ramsey informs Hunter that his original second-in-command is very ill, and that his name was at the top of a very short list.

The two seem to hit it off immediately in terms of respect. However, as the Alabama submerges deeper in the waters, Hunter slowly to become objected to the Captain’s eccentric tactics. One such case is a point where the Captain runs a nuclear missile drill even as a fire breaks out in the ship galley. Hunter confronts Ramsey about the decision to run a drill at such a point. Ramsey’s reason; such a moment could happen even in a moment of crisis.

But the level of trust between the two men is severely tested at a very compromising point. The sub receives a message from the National Command Authority, only the message comes out incomplete due to the radio apparatus being damaged. Despite the condition of the message, Ramsey orders the ship to launch nuclear missiles at an alleged enemy Russian sub.

But Hunter has a difference of opinion with the Captain. He feels that the orders of the message are unknown and that it could mean something completely different from the order to launch. It’s a move that puts the two an intense face off. The twist of the situation is that Ramsey cannot execute a missile launch unless the Executive Officer concurs. Hunter doesn’t concur, and the men on board the sub find themselves in the midst of a heated mutiny.

The most gripping aspect of the movie, and the genius of Michael Schiffer’s screenplay, is that it places the viewer in the ultimate “what-would-you-do?” situation. If it were me, I would perhaps side with the Washington character. I consider myself an idealist, which Hunter clearly is, and if I came across such an incomplete message, I seriously don’t know what I would do. I’m not sure I’d be willing to cause a mutiny, but at the same time, I wouldn’t want to be the one responsible for a mistake which resulted in wrongful deaths.

The acting in this movie is some of the most intense and fantastic you’ll ever see. The fierce exchange between Washington and Hackman as the mutiny develops is one of the most invigorating scenes I’ve ever scene. It seems less like acting, but a real debate that is going in the absolute wrong direction. And by the end of the movie, when half of the crew has completely turned against the other half of the crew, you see just how exceedingly far the mutiny has gone.

Tony Scott, younger brother of Ridley, has made a career of making fast paced and visually exciting action thrillers, and Crimson Tide is definitely one of his best films to date. He succeeds in making the most of his set pieces. In this case, the confines of the submarine create an uncompromisingly claustrophobic feel. And the suspense never lets up, as suspected enemy subs appear endlessly in the Alabama’s path, resulting in endless edge-of-your-seat moments.

I’ve always had a hard time deciding which is the better submarine thriller; this or The Hunt For Red October. Both movies are dynamic and invigorating experiences, so in the end I probably find them equally fantastic. One thing’s certain; Crimson Tide remains a thrilling piece of intelligent popcorn entertainment, and one that hasn’t lost its effect in repeated viewings. Dive down and enjoy!

Video ***1/2

Again, I praise Buena Vista for going back and giving an early DVD title the true picture quality it deserves, as Crimson Tide is finally presented in tremendous anamorphic glory. The image quality is very much stunning. Considering that the setting offers frequent shots in darkly lit areas, the picture excels in top notch form, with good usage of colors as well.

Audio ****

A dynamically strong 5.1 can be found at the surface. Right from the opening scenes, the movie has an endless amount going for it in the sound department, particularly that of Hans Zimmer’s pulse-pounding score to the film. And the non stop intensity on board the sub is even more intense in this sound presentation. Dialogue delivery is terrific and precise. Outstanding in every sense.

Features **1/2

Though the extras aren’t exactly plentiful, it more than makes up for the initial bare bones release. The new Extended Cut includes seven minutes of new footage, as well as two making of featurettes and additional deleted scenes. Also included are several sneak peek previews for other Buena Vista titles.


Crimson Tide is the best example of a intelligent edge of your seat thriller. Expertly directed by Tony Scott and tremendously acted by the remarkable lead actors and cast, it remains a top class piece of cinematic suspense.

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