The torpedoes, missiles and testosterone levels are all on red alert in Crimson Tide, the latest exercise in high-tech macho from director Tony Scott and producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. A brink-of-nuclear-disaster thriller [from a screen story by Michael Schiffer and Richard P. Henrick] set aboard a tension-fraught US submarine, this is a boy’s movie all the way.
Exposition is handled with terrific dispatch, as a pseudo-CNN news report lays out the state of things in Russia, where some nationalist right-wingers initiate a civil war and grab control of a Pacific Coast nuclear base. The US sends the USS Alabama towards the hot zone.
At the helm is Capt. Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman). Known for chewing up and spitting out executive officers, he engages for the fateful voyage Lt. Commander Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington), never tested under fire. When an initial message ordering a nuclear attack arrives, the entire crew nervously prepares to launch World War III, even while being pursued by a rogue Russian submarine.
Up to this halfway point, Crimson Tide is an exciting, efficient, straight-ahead thriller. But as the inevitable moment of truth arrives, is aborted, arrives again and is once more postponed, and as command of the ship seesaws back and forth, plausibility becomes strained and the story comes to feel waterlogged.
Still, director Scott makes the most of his cramped surroundings, keeping the action and the camera hopping. Washington and Hackman create worthy adversaries.
Nominations: Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing