Crimson Tide

What more high pressure situation could there be than two men in a submarine arguing over whether or not to launch a nuclear missile? I guess the only thing that would make it more tense would be if they also had to get home in time for a kid’s birthday party. Luckily the birthday party happened at the beginning of the movie, right before they were deployed to take part in “the worst standoff since the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

The two opposing forces, you probly remember, are the captain of the sub, Ramsey (Gene Hackman) and his new executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Hunter (Denzel Washington). Ramsey is brash, set in his ways, notoriously hard to get along with. Hunter is extremely intelligent, highly educated and has some views that are considered liberal for someone in his position, and Ramsey is happy to put him on the spot about these things in front of the men and try to make him uncomfortable about it. Hunter won’t say he opposes dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but that he hesitated to support it makes him a piece of shit to this way of thinking.

The casting of the two leads is the key to the movie. There aren’t many humans who could withstand a browbeating by Gene Hackman while still seeming strong, but Denzel is one of them. He’s usually the one beating the brows, so we know he can take it. And that’s what he does, standing up straight, biting his tongue, sometimes interjecting his viewpoint but being very diplomatic about it until halfway through the movie when he has no choice but to explode into Alpha Denzel to potentially save millions of lives.

The structure of the movie is great. While it’s setting up the tension and differences between these two characters it’s also establishing the glory and the procedure of life on a nuclear submarine: the speech the Captain makes to the troops, the ritual of quietly watching the sunset before the dive (yeah, it’s directed by Tony Scott), the sight of the crew busily running around doing their jobs, sliding down rails, using their jargon. Hans Zimmer’s music is in-your-face triumphant like THE ROCK and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN but as the camera ogles the sexy curves of the submarine there’s a big choir singing the Naval hymn “For Those In Peril On The Sea.” It’s like the Church of the Navy.

There’s a big kitchen fire that happens (of course Scott’s gonna want to shoot some giant flames) and before it’s resolved Ramsey decides to do a drill. It not only causes more conflict between the two (Ramsey thinks that during a fire is the best time for a drill to see if the crew is ready, and keeps pushing buttons to try to get Hunter to admit that he thinks it was negligent) but shows us all the layers of confirmation and safety a command has to to through before it’s authenticated and put into action. It shows us that the Captain and the XO have to agree. So of course when the shit goes down for real they’re not gonna agree.

On the surface the disagreement is over an interpretation of military duty. Ramsey believes the command to launch a missile was authenticated, therefore they have to launch it. Hunter believes that because they received another incomplete message they have to re-establish communications and make sure that wasn’t an order to stand down. Really I think they’re disagreeing over philosophy, because this is what leads them to interpret differently. Ramsey is not a bad person, he’s never demonized, but he definitely has a “let’s get the bastards” worldview, so his biggest fear is that Russians would kill us and we’d fail to kill them back. Hunter, we’ve seen, believes in avoiding war when possible, so his fear is killing the Russians when we didn’t have to. (And then they’d kill us back too.)

On one of the posters it says “On the nuclear submarine USS Alabama, one man has absolute power. And one man will do anything to stop him.” That sounds like it’s a DR. STRANGELOVE type situation where the guy is nuts and out of control, a true villain that must be stopped. That it’s not that is what’s unique about the movie. He’s not a madman. He’s truly following his orders the way he sees them, and believes it’s the right thing to do. But I also think he’s just itchin to do it.

I tell ya, I gotta go with Denzel on this one. He’s right on the facts and he’s right on substance. But I like that they can all fight over this without anybody being bad guys, really. They’re just assholes. They make a strong enough case that Denzel’s buddy Viggo Mortensen, who he’s close enough with that he was at the kid’s birthday party, switches over to the other side. At least temporarily. He’s conflicted.

And the end is so great because – do I really gotta do a SPOILER warning here? it’s probly safe, I’m not gonna bother with one but this is a SPOILER though – Ramsey doesn’t apologize. After being so sure of himself the whole movie now he looks like he’s gonna shit his pants. But he just walks away without saying anything. Yep, I was wrong. Millions of people almost died because I was wrong. Maybe all the people would’ve died. Whoops. My bad. Well, no harm no foul.

Since Scott’s death alot of people have been talking about his love for things-that-don’t-make-sense-but-look-cool. One thing that may fit into that category is the way he lights people in this submarine. There are people looking at computer screens that somehow project text onto their faces. There are people lit entirely in red standing in front of entirely blue backgrounds. In one very symbolic scene Viggo has red projected on one side of his face, blue on the other, a portion in the middle overlapping and looking greenish. At that point he’s torn between supporting the Captain (who often wears a red cap) or the XO (sometimes wears blue). DO YOU SEE WHAT I’M SAYING TO YOU? THE MAN IS CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO COLORS.

I was planning to review this a couple weeks ago when I was doing the minor Tarantino works. He’s uncredited, but he script-doctored some of the dialogue, and it shows. There are obvious pop culture ones: two officers get in a fight over which artist had the definitive version of The Silver Surfer (is this also a reference to BREATHLESS?), Hunter somehow inspires the guy fixing the radio by talking to him about Star Trek. I believe he also added Ramsey having a little dog (who, by the way, wags his tail happily when everything is okay – he was on Hunter’s side) and their discussion of different breeds of horses. I imagine he also wrote Ramsey’s speech where he describes their mission as “We have to go out there and give the man a moment of pause.”

Apparently when Tarantino visited the set Denzel confronted him about racial slurs in his movies. It must’ve been scary to get chew out by Malcolm X, but it didn’t stop him from writing JACKIE BROWN. The Premiere article this story comes from doesn’t seem to be online anywhere, but I did find more recent quotes from GQ where he says “I buried that hatchet. I sought him out ten years ago. I told him, ‘Look, I apologize.'” That’s kinda weird that he’d have to apologize. RESERVOIR DOGS, TRUE ROMANCE and PULP FICTION all had white characters who weren’t even the villains casually dropping racial slurs. In PULP FICTION it was Tarantino himself saying it. So it’s not like his point was completely crazy. Maybe he really lit into him.

To answer my original question I guess there would’ve been even more pressure if there were a bunch of bees loose on the sub. Because it would be hard to hide from bees down there. But back then the cgi for swarms wasn’t as good so that’s probly why they didn’t do it and just had to rely on the pressure of the nuclear conflict.

I liked this one when I first saw it, and it completely held up all these years later. In fact I think it’s a little better than I remembered. Personally I rank this as Tony Scott’s second best.

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51 Responses to “Crimson Tide”

  1. Hackman was always good at playing authority figures one step away from abusing his power. This and UNFORGIVEN are prime examples of that.

  2. And Abolute Power which Vern’s already touched on. In a battle for most weasley Hackman in a position of power role however I think No Way Out wins, bolstered by Will Patton’s long-suffering lackey. Don’t think Vern’s hit that one, maybe someday Costner will get a Vern run. Nah.

  3. On the topic of Crimson Tide I really like it and Tony Scott brings a great style to a tough setting to set a style, but it’s hard for me to rank as high in his oeuvre because I always think of how much more I like The Hunt for Red October so Crimson Tide gets set ill-deserved knocks memory-wise. You are right on the nose about how he handles the tension. We know how it’s gonna work out, but every time you still feel things are so close to getting out of control.

  4. I remember being rather disappointed when I saw this in the cinema, but maybe that was because I’d just seen DAS BOOT on video and that rocks the Casbah as far as submarine films go.

  5. Hackman’s good in almost everything, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Hackman the Action Hero; The Hunting Party, The French Connection, Prime Cut, French Connection II, Night Moves, The Domino Principle, Target, The Package and Narrow Margin…

  6. pegsman – whats the name of the movie that takes place mostly on a train where Hackman has to protect a government witness? Can´t seem to recall the title, but I remember it being pretty great

  7. Shoot, that’s Narrow Margin.

  8. clubside, Hackman has never been weaslier than he was in PRIME CUT. But I guess he had to be a bit extreme when he’ was up against Lee Marvin.

  9. The Original... Paul

    September 21st, 2012 at 5:11 am

    I find Hackman a completely hit-or-miss actor. He was probably at his worst in the “Superman” films (watch the original film again for the “My IQ, your weight” line and marvel to yourself how Hackman’s delivery managed to make that not the slightest bit funny). I find “Absolute Power” absolutely unwatchable – it’s boring as hell – and the best thing by far about “No Way Out” is the ending of it. It’s ok and it’s fairly tense, but I just find that large parts of it drag.

    On the flip side of the coin there’s “The French Connection”, “Prime Cut”, and “Unforgiven”. I love “Narrow Margin” and I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for “Target”, despite its flaws.

    I’ve seen “Crimson Tide” but don’t remember a thing about it, which is probably a bad sign. I’d have to watch it again to post an opinion.

  10. I think second best is probably where I’d place this one as well. It’s the closest Tony Scott came to directing a stage play, which is something I think a lot of directors should do to discipline themselves as storytellers (even if they still do it in movie form, like Richard Linklater did with TAPE).

    Speaking of plays and nuclear disaster, did you guys ever see that live televised version of FAIL SAFE, starring Clooney and Richard Dreyfuss, and directed by Stephen Frears? I thought it was the coolest thing ever, and such a fascinating technical exercise. I’d love it if live TV movies could make a comeback. I did some live mixing in a studio once and it was such a rush. Imagine doing a whole movie that way. The rehearsal process must be insane.

  11. Funny you say that, Paul, because I’ve always considered Hackman to be one of the most consistently reliable actors ever. He’s been in a few stinkers, sure, but his presence was always the one thing that I knew I’d enjoy in any of his films.

  12. I just recently watched the 1952 version of Narrow Margin, but I had no idea that there was a remake and that it starred Gene Hackman.

    Crimson Tide might be my favorite Tony Scott film. I like True Romance, but Crimson Tide seems to mesh better with Scott’s style.

  13. My grandmother attended the high school HOOSIERS was shot in.

  14. I love this film. It’s a perfect example of an amazing cast, extremely slick direction and a snappy script completely overriding any nitpicking one might have. The core conflict and many of the smaller obstacles in the film could never happen in a real Navy nuclear submarine, but you’re so engrossed in the movie, you don’t really care.

    Everything is set up so naturally, it doesn’t feel like it’s insulting your intelligence. Despite the obvious contrivances in the story. That takes a really deft hand behind the camera to pull off successfully.

  15. I seem to recall learning that Tarantino’s contribution was for more of the technical stuff and the pop culture references were actually someone else.

    Also somebody needs to convince Hackman to unretire because his last movie cannot be Welcome to Mooseport. I love that man. Such a great actor.

  16. What’s great about Hackman is that, whether he’s playing a hero, a villain, or something in between, he plays all his characters exactly the same: as Gene Hackman. They were all just kinda prickly cranks with a twinkle in their eye, because that’s who Hackman is. He never tries to play up the evil of, say, his character in THE QUICK AND THE DEAD or the good of, say, his guy in ENEMY OF THE STATE. His characters are not aware of their purpose in the three-act structure of a screenplay. They’re just people, doing their thing. How you’re supposed to feel about them is dictated by their context in the film and the action the script has them performing, not by how Hackman plays them. I mean, Little Bill was basically the villain of UNFORGIVEN. He let men who cut up a woman’s face go scot-free, which set off the whole plot that got a lot of people killed, and it’s his brutal methods that brought about the violent retribution at the end. But you don’t think of him that way because Hackman plays him like he’s a hero. My favorite Hackman story is the one about Wes Anderson trying to tell him how to act so he’d fit in more with the tone of ROYAL TENENBAUMS, and Hackman tells him to go fuck himself. You hire Hackman to play Hackman. You don’t want Hackman, go hire somebody else. You don’t change Hackman to fit your movie, you make sure your movie knows how to present Hackman properly so the audience knows how they’re supposed to feel about him. I think this is why he ended up stealing so many movies. As far as the characters he plays are concerned, they’re the hero. Because doesn’t everybody secretly think that they’re the star of their own movie?

  17. Should have mentioned Paul’s completely insane remark that Hackman is a “hit or miss” actor. Hackman is the exact opposite of a hit or miss actor. He gives the EXACT. SAME. PERFORMANCE. EVERY. TIME. The only difference is how much chuckle he adds. And that’s perfectly okay. Most actors would consider Hackman’s standard performance to be a career best. He’s always natural, always commanding, always operating in a shade of gray. The movies might be hit or miss, but Hackman is solid as a fucking rock. I can’t think of a more consistent actor.

  18. THE CONVERSATION has to be the outlier though, right? He’s incredible in that role, but in a very non-Hackman-y way. Much more mousy and pathetic than in any other movie.

  19. Always interesting to me to ponder which movies have characters in them that either consciously or subconsciously resemble the filmmakers who made them:


  20. Yeah, I think the two extremes of Hackmanliness are THE CONVERSATION and Lex Luthor. He’s at his most toned down in CONVERSATION (which I really need to watch again. What a great fucking movie that is.) and his most “Ain’t I a stinker?” as Lex (a very entertaining performance that, unfortunately, the tone of those movies is not quite up to supporting). That’s the Chuckle Factor at work.

  21. There is a whole bunch of actors, who play the same character (more or less) in every movie. The kind of actor, who almost completely disappears in his role in every single movie, is actually pretty rare. I think we had this discussion here before, but about Denzel Washington, who has always been accused of playing always the same character. The trick is to be convincing. It doesn’t matter if you are always Gene, Denzel or Clint, as long as you get the acting right. (Charisma helps too.) That’s why Gene Hackman is a legend, while Michael Cera’s career is pretty much over at this point.

  22. Yeah, I don’t mind actors who basically give the same performance in every movie. If they do it well, then great. I don’t think one needs to be versatile to be a good artist. The key is context; giving a similar performance in different types of films, to different effect.

  23. “Enough is ENOUGH! I’ve had it with these Honey-grubbing Bees, on this motherfucking Sub!!!”

    Yeah, I’d watch that movie.

  24. “I’m about to open some fucking portholes”

  25. You know reviews like this remind me how much I miss Hackman at the movies. Like Clint, he’s one of those unique forceful awesome personalities that the mold was broken by the movie gods after they crafted him.

    Mr. M – You know in retrospect, Hackman in those SUPERMAN movies he was doing Robert Downey Jr./IRON MAN except as the villain. (Except part 4 because that just sucked total.)

  26. Also tenuously connceted only by the theme of nuclear armaggedon….I saw DREDD and it was good.

    (A perfect double feature for Vern this weekend: This and that Clint baseball movie, considering Karl Urban did his terrific best to ape Clint.)

  27. The Original... Paul

    September 21st, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Majestyk – I completely disagree about Hackman’s performance as Luthor. That was clearly meant to be a comedy role. Some of the lines, delivered correctly, could have been classics, but Hackman delivers them in his usual bored throwaway tone. Not even deadpan – he just doesn’t get it. The “My IQ, your weight” line was one of those. I think it’s easily Hackman’s worst performance. Maybe you can blame the fact that he misses so many comedy lines on the director, but Hackman himself has to take some of the blame.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the whole character of Luthor is absolutely wrong in just about every Superman film he’s ever appeared in, with the possible exception of my personal favorite (Superman 2) in which he appeared for about five minutes, total. Among many, many other problems I have with this character, I don’t for the life of me understand why a billionaire crime lord would live in a sewer with two morons. (That is not an exaggeration by the way – watch the original film again.) But clearly the script had SOME ideas for him, which Hackman just missed.

    Again, I don’t want to attack Hackman too much because he’s played great parts in many movies that I really like or love. (“Unforgiven” being the best example probably.) I kind of disagree with the people who say he has a certain “schtick” and ONLY does that – I think he’s very, very different in terms of his whole attitude, how he talks, how he moves, when he’s playing a character like the cop of “Narrow Margin”, as opposed to – say – the more corrupt characters he plays in “Runaway Jury” or “no Way Out” (two fairly similar characters) – but I would go as far as to agree that a Hackman performance can’t really be mistaken for anything else. I can’t see him “disappearing into a role”.

    Y’know, I agree most with CJ in terms of what Hackman does. I just don’t think it works anything like as consistently as, say, Eastwood’s schtick does. I can’t think of a single Eastwood performance I thought was actually a bad performance. Wouldn’t say the same about Hackman.

  28. I’ve always found it funny that Hollywood decided to send off Hackman with Welcome to Mooseport, a movie that nobody has seen and few remember

  29. It’s interesting that the end of his career sort of paralleled Sean Connery hanging it up. Both ended with poorly received work, and I personally like to think both of them did movies a few years before each one that would have been a better sendoff (Hackman in TENENBAUMS, and Connery in FINDING FORRESTER).

  30. Paul – Not to get too nerdy on you, but the Luthor that you want depicted in the Reeves Superman movies – a billionaire industrialist – didn’t exist at the time that those films were made. The evil CEO depiction of Lex Luthor, if I have my DC history right, didn’t come around until the 80s when they revamped the character. Until then, Luthor was just a genius mad scientist who came up with wacky inventions to stop Superman. This was the character that Hackman’s Luthor was based off of, and it’s more than a little unfair to fault those films for not coming up with an iteration of a character that didn’t exist yet. Don’t get me wrong. Those Superman films, although they have their moments, are deeply flawed. But I see the criticism that they didn’t get Luthor right a lot, and I think it’s based off of a misconception of how the character was depicted at the time.

  31. How is it that no one has brought up GET SHORTY yet?

  32. Regarding Hackman in the first SUPERMAN, am I the only one who thought he was funny? Sure in those sorts of movies you’re not allowed to have the villain involved in any comedy, but honestly last time I saw that one, I laughed. Hackman and Beatty had good screwball/Marx Brothers chemistry.

    Personally I prefer Lex Luthor to be less the greedy billionaire and more the mad scientist who’s tragic that he could’ve used his brains to help humanity but wasted it in trying to kill Supes or take over the world just to despise him.

  33. I think Hackman is hilarious in those movies. It’s a very entertaining performance. I just think it was a mistake to make Lex such a comic villain. It’s hard enough to make a credible threat for a guy who is impervious to bodily harm and can fly and shoot lasers out of his eyes without making his nemesis a weasely wiseass with a tubby retard for a sidekick. But maybe it makes a weird kind of sense for Lex to be Superman’s opposite in every way, so while Supes is earnest and forthright Lex is snarky and insouciant.

    I do think the billionaire industrialist interpretation is more interesting because it gives Lex the facade of legitimacy. When he’s an out-and-proud supervillain, all Supes has to do is lay hands on him and it’s game over. If he seems like a solid citizen, then law-abiding Superman must use his brain and not just his biceps to stop him. I can’t really fault the Donner-originated series for not doing that, though, since it wasn’t an interpretation of the character that existed yet.

    I will fault Singer for it, though. Most of SUPERMAN RETURNS’ faults could be traced back to having such a silly fop for an antagonist.

  34. Mr. M – I blame the comic villainy choice on the chief influence: The 007 movies, since this was the first real big budget cape movie, they took stock (i.e. rip off) from the big budget hits of that era, which were 007 and Disaster pictures. And James Bond routinely kills adversaries with one-liners who camped up all those big sets. (For the record, Luthor’s subway home has to be one of my favorite movie sets ever.)

    Funny for years I used to hate “comedy” Luthor and all that because superhero movies are serious dammit, but as I’ve grown older and pretty much take for granted serious villains with pathos as thick as the heroes…hey if you’re entertaining even as a bastard nemesis, I dig that. And Hackman was that. Plus in SUPERMAN 2, I find it funny how he’s able to politick and bullshit three Kryptonians (each easily could kill him) and keeping cool despite this fact.

    But let me give a defense for why I prefer mad scientist Lex (even if you do make a good point which makes sense): Before DC erased it from continuity, Lex actually had his own planet that by his own ingenuity he solved their laundry list of third world-typical problems and became their leader, even renaming the planet after him (Lexor). If I remember right, he even had a family there. Of course as king, he establishes propaganda the populace believes that Superman is Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Charles Manson all rolled into one.

    If not for his ego and his rage against Supes, he could’ve been Earth’s hero. Sure Superman can do awesome shit, but all which would be pale and not as remembered as say curing AIDS or ending famine or whatever which Lex could figure out I’m sure. That’s why I was annoyed by the President Luthor storyline. They used that as an excuse for another typical Luthor-going-against-Supes plot, but what if instead Prez Lex actually decided to get revenge on Supes by being the greatest President ever? That would stick it to that boy scout.

    Oh and SUPERMAN RETURNS, that might be a good example of when either too much pathos (or too much uninteresting pathos) or half-ass pathos, I’m not sure. What a mess, though not technically a bad movie but on the verge of being worthless.

  35. CRIMSON TIDE is a classic.

    Hackman as Luthor it’s just 70’s family movie sensibilities really. Not even the comic book Luthor from that era was that over the top with the buffoonery. But it’s still an endearing performance if you ask me. I think he pulled it off very organically.

    I would prefer a Lex Luthor who is a scientist that views himself as humanity’s savior. A man that wasn’t even afraid to put his own dad on the line if need be and just inherited money. Then an alien comes out of nowhere to threaten that in his eyes. “We don’t need to rely on an Alien” is his motto. He was also well funded and does everything he can to get Metropolis rid of this super pest. It’s what they brought back to the comic books before they rebooted the DC Comics universe last year.

  36. Pressed enter by mistake but yeah Zack Snyder when you come across to it make Lex Luthor somebody who people could believe as a threat on film. As much as I dislike the SMALLVILLE show (it’s complete shit) that was one of the highlights of the show early on.

  37. I never saw Superman Returns, the only thing I remember about it is the “WROOOOOOOOONG!” meme

  38. The Original... Paul

    September 22nd, 2012 at 11:30 am

    RBatty – I take your point (for the record I don’t know a thing about the comic book history of Superman beyond what I’ve just read here) but billionaire industrialist or mad scientist – he’s still living in a freaking sewer. With a pair of out-and-out morons as sidekicks. And I’m not even going to go into “Superman Returns”, which sits solidly in the middle-top of my “worst movies of the last decade” list. I’ve ranted enough about that film on this site, I don’t particularly want to do it here.

    Keeping on the Hackman topic though – I was really surprised by how convincing he was in the otherwise-not-great “Runaway Jury”. That film is almost worth watching for Hackman’s performance alone. He takes a fairly standard character and just adds to it, acting Dustin Hoffman and John Cusack off the screen in the process.

  39. Paul – What gets me is that the girl (unsurprisingly) turns on Lex after he tries to nuke her Mom, and yet she still crawls back to him in the sequel.

    Girl has issues.

  40. Lex Luthor likes to surround himself with morons in order to make himself look smarter.

  41. That true or not, I think he was hiding in the sewer because he was meant to be at large? Otis was getting trailed by a cop at the start of the movie trying to find him. And while it’s true they were just basing his comedic side off of how he was in the comics at the time(the same is true of the 60s Batman Series, so it didn’t “ruin” the character like some people try to say), his goals and actions are a BIT too ruthless to really be balanced out by the “Haha! He’s bald!” humour. People say Spacey just copied Hackman’s performance too much, but I disagree. Returns Luthor does DO a lot of the same shit as Hackman Luthor, but Spacey’s actual performance does actually make him seem like a much more dangerous and unbalanced guy. How he scams that old woman out of her money(and is implied to have slept with her) IS demeaning, but I personally like how as soon as she dies and he’s gotten what he wants he switches to that smug mode and throws his wig off. As many problems as I have with SR, I think Spacey’s Luthor would have been great if he’d had better material to work with.

  42. I would love to see Bryan Cranston play Luthor in the MAN OF STEEL sequel, since he isn’t a character in the first one.

  43. Stu – Hackman’s Lex was NOT based off the Lex from the silver or bronze age Superman comics in any way. It was it’s own thing.

  44. I remember watching an interview with Gene Hackman where he was laughing at just how idiotic he thought the Superman movie was while he was making it. I don’t mind his performance in the Christopher Reeve’s Superman movies, but I think we can all agree that as a performer he has better things to do than act across someone dressed in red and blue tights. There are a number of things I like about that movie, like the time in Smallville, the dark humor they incorporate into the Metropolis scenes (like Lois not being able to spell the word “rape”), and Superman’s first night of superheroics. But the film doesn’t quite manage to balance the character versus camp dynamic that’s important for most superhero films. Also, I kind of like Superman Returns (both as a film and as an experimental recreation of Richard Donner’s style).

  45. I´m a SUPERMAN 2-man myself. Origin-stories are fine, but you just want to get on with it and have Kal-el fight some crazy super-villains.The climactic battle in Metropolis against Zod & Co is my favourite actionsequence in ANY superhero-movie.

  46. People whine about origin stories, but for many characters they’re defined at least in part by them. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and so forth those well-known origins are part of their DNA, itf’s part of the charm.

    Then some characters are defined more by what they do, their origins almost irrelevant. Take DREDD, where Judge Dredd is given no origin story or pathos or love interests or the usual bag of modern superhero movie tricks. Hell he wears his helmet in every shot. No he’s defined as in the comics by what he does: enforcing the law against incredible odds and fantastical adversaries, and prevailing by being a cunning, hardcore, tough, brutal son of a bitch.

    You don’t root for him because of his whole clone backstory or whatever nonsense, you root for him because he’ll shoot a flair into a perp’s mouth.

  47. this is just one of those solid hollywood product movies. all elements: subject matter, script, music, acting, casting, cinematography, directing, scope… everything firing on all cylinders. hollywood churns out 100 malformed stunted creations to every single one of these

    everyone attached to crimson tide should be proud. you done good. rest on your laurels, you deserve accolades. you made it

  48. Yeah Crimson Tide gets better and better with age – I used to think it was a solid, above-average summer movie, but now I think it’s a stone cold classic. What makes it incredible is that it’s not really a Tom Clancy knock-off like I used to think it was – what we get instead is a proto-version of Whiplash – an intimate battle of wills starting with small micro-aggressions before eventually exploding- where you never quite know until the end if the “mentor” character is trying to show tough love and ready his protege/opponent for the cruelty of the world, or if he’s just a psychopathic asshole. Hackman is great like he always is, but man, Denzel is on fire here. There’s so much “thinking” going on underneath the surface – almost the entire first half of this film is him saying the opposite of how we know he feels, or choosing his words very diplomatically, like a politician trying really hard to answer gotcha questions in the most vague, inoffensive way possible. It’s a master class in slow-burn acting that would have completely fallen apart with a lesser actor, but when things get MEGA and Hackman and Washington just drop the passive-aggressive costume-drama pleasantries and repression and starting screaming at each other – holy shit that may be one of my new favorite scenes ever. (I really wish I could have seen that scene in a theater on opening day – i wonder if the crowd would have cheered at Denzel finally standing up to Hackman, or if they sat in stunned silence because they’re both so good the scene feels uncomfortable, like watching Mom and Dad fight at the dinner table)

    The movie’s so intimate and actorly, almost stage-bound, yet it never feels boring or small. The sound effects on a good home theater system are incredible, and Scott’s ingenious gimmick of having the set constantly rotating to simulate the sub diving or rising really adds to the immersion. (I somehow never even noticed this technique till now, maybe because I only saw this before on a Pan and Scan VHS?) I love that the movie’s central villain (played by Daniel von Bargen!) is never seen outside of news footage, and the actual “plot” involving the Russian separatists all takes place entirely offscreen. I love that the casting director had the good fortune of casting all the small roles with future stars (James Gandolfini! Steve Zahn! Ryan Phillippe!) so we can actually tell the minor characters apart now. I love that the movie feels like a low-key procedural but also doesn’t shy away from over-the-top theatrics without making us feel like we’ve been hit with wild tonal shifts. Oh yeah, the score’s a classic too but I think everyone already knew that. Anyway, yeah, they really don’t make them like this anymore and this is probably my favorite Tony Scott film.

  49. I agree, Neal. I don’t know about the midpoint scene, but when I worked at a movie theater one of the ushers memorized the Jason Robards “you boys have created one hell of a mess” speech because he saw it so many times. So when it got slow he would do the speech for me. I can’t remember his name now but he lives rent free in my brain.

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