Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Crimson Tide remains one of the very best Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer collaborations with the late, great Tony Scott at the helm.  Don’t you miss that old lightning-bolt logo crashing down before a big-budget pop-corn movie?  Shot for a now-paltry $55 million and released in May of 1995, it featured an on-the-rise Denzel Washington going head-to-head against Gene Hackman as dueling nuclear submarine commanders engulfed in a hostile battle over command of the sub and the fate of the free world.  An interrupted communications message leaves the crew of the sub unsure of what to do during a tense military stand-off with the Russians; will we or won’t we launch our warheads which will inevitably lead to WWIII?  This film excels because Scott cared enough about his believable screenplay and his full-bodied characters to the point where his uber-stylish creative leanings didn’t overpower the entire production – it was a perfect match in material and filmmaker.  Recalling the claustrophobia of Das Boot and the grittiness of The Hunt for the Red October, Crimson Tide sits alongside those genre classics and many others as a first-rate submarine drama with narrative complexity to match its high-powered pyrotechnics, of which there are plenty.  Intelligently written by Michael Schiffer (Colors, Lean on Me, the underrated The Peacemaker) with uncredited punch-ups by Quentin Tarantino, Crimson Tide has story tension, strong, macho dialogue, and a credible finale after all of the angry dust settles between Hackman and Washington.  Both thesps deliver power-house performances, sweating and snarling their way through each adrenaline filled scene.  Budding master cinematographer Dariusz Wolski bathes the widescreen images in greens, reds, and blues, playing off of the submarine’s read-out screens with fantastic shadows covering the actor’s faces in numerous sequences.  As Scott and Wolski’s camera darts down the sub’s narrow corridors and swings back and forth with almost primal ferocity, the film picks up a tremendous sense of visceral energy that continues all the way to the heated finish.  The heavy use of extreme close-ups in tandem with Chris Lebenzon’s razor-sharp editing only heightens the intensity.  Hans Zimmer’s epic, often-borrowed score is one of his best, filled with moments of soaring grace that stir your insides.  And then there’s the ridiculous supporting cast, assembled by the legendary Victoria Thomas, which includes no less than James Gandolfini, Viggo Mortensen, Matt Craven, George Dzundza, Ricky Schroder, Rocky Carroll, Steve Zahn, Danny Nucci, Lillo Brancato, Ryan Phillippe, and an uncredited Jason Robards.  The film was a hit with critics and audiences, grossing $160 globally ($91 domestic), thus putting Simpson and Bruckheimer back on track after two previous hits that year in Bad Boys and Dangerous Minds.  It also garnered three Oscar nominations (Film Editing, Sound, Sound Editing)  I’ve watched Crimson Tide probably 50 times and I’ll likely watch it 50 more. 

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