Movies & Videos
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar

    Related Item
'Crimson Tide'

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 12, 1995


Tony Scott
Denzel Washington;
Gene Hackman;
George Dzundza;
Viggo Mortensen;
Matt Craven;
James Gandolfini
profanity and minor violence

Marketplace Online Shopping

Compare prices
for this movie

Find local video stores
WP yellowpages
More movie shopping

Save money with NextCard Visa

When it comes to submarines, boys will always be boys—end of the Cold War be damned. "Crimson Tide," starring Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington, is about trembling hands clutching nuclear-bombing codes, sweating crew-members crossing themselves, and clocks counting the world's final minutes. The scenario may be dumb and predictable, with a wimpy ending to boot, but it's also sort of fun.

When a rebel Russian leader seizes a missile base and threatens to blow up the United States and Japan, the American government puts a nuclear submarine on major alert. While monastic choral voices serenade them on the soundtrack, war-mongering skipper Hackman and his sensitive-but-strong lieutenant commander Washington board the USS Alabama and hunt for post-Reds in October.

As the submarine propels its way towards the possible outbreak of World War III, Hackman and Washington duke with each other like Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian. Their conflict is, naturally, the best element in the movie. Washington can feel the pulse of the crew, believes that war is not a good thing, and loves Arabian horses. With that soft-centered steeliness, he makes an appealing, by-the-book hero. Hackman believes in Jack Russells, simple destruction of the enemy and speaking harshly with a big stick. And as usual, he chuckles his way through evil, so that you fear him and like him all at once.

Their dueling ideologies come into sharper focus when an EAM—an electronic message from the Pentagon—orders them to load up and get ready to fire. Hackman needs no second bidding. ("Hope you enjoyed the peace," he tells the crew at the beginning of the mission, "because, as of now, we're back in business.")

But when a second, garbled EAM comes in—its message unclear—the captain decides to stay on course. Washington, who doesn't want to destroy the world with that nagging feeling that he didn't have to, insists on finding out what the second message said. The trouble is—and here's where you have to dunk your disbelief—the radio system dies. And in the deep, there are no pay phones. As Hackman and Washington have at each other, the crew (including George Dzundza and Viggo Mortensen) is bounced uncertainly in between.

This '90s belligerency feels almost sentimental. Michael Schiffer's script repeddles elements from "The Hunt for Red October," "Fail Safe," "Dr. Strangelove" and "Mutiny on the Bounty." The movie's a reunion of director Tony Scott and producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson—the testosteronal trio that gave you "Top Gun," "Beverly Hills Cop II" and "Days of Thunder." And once again, we're asked to regard Russians as Klingons and fear the threat of a glowing holocaust. But there's always something involving about underwater tussles of will, and "Crimson" is satisfyingly buffed up to look new. It's no effort to take the dive.

CRIMSON TIDE (R) — Contains profanity and minor violence.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

Back to the top

Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar