The three most powerful men in the world:
The President of the United States
The Premier of Russia
The Captain of a nuclear submarine
Before Jerry Bruckheimer produced every Summer blockbuster he did his little “art house” films like “Crimson Tide”, “Top Gun” and “Bad Boys” you know, just something he thought audiences might enjoy. “Crimson Tide” is actually more of a throwback to the days of the Cold War or at least that’s what the movie tries to tell us. A crew on the verge of mutiny, the commanders at each other’s throats and the threat of nuclear war against, you guessed it, the Russians. That’s “Crimson Tide”. Looking back, and it’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 15 years since this movie came out, the movie might be best remembered for its cast. Naturally Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman took top billing, but some fairly undiscovered talent lie in the cast of this action/adventure film. I’m talking about names like Steve Zahn and Viggo Mortensen as well as some previously established stars like Rich Schroder and Matt Craven. Re-watching this movie made me appreciate how good it really was and as someone with a few relatives in the Navy, let’s just say that it did spark some debate at the time.
The world is on the brink of a nuclear war and it’s time for the US armed forces to go into action. Aboard the USS Alabama, a nuclear submarine, they’re ready to rock and roll and with new Executive Officer Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington) he and Captain Ramsey (Gene Hackman) are ready to answer the call of their country. They’re set to follow any order sent to them and when that order comes, there’s a problem. That problem, per se, is that the message is truncated and they’re not sure if the order is one to fire upon the Soviets or that the coup has been called to a halt. The moral dilemma: if all is well, a nuclear strike will certainly start a nuclear war. And if a conflict is already in the midst, not firing could end up in a loss for the United States. Naturally the two in command (Ramsey and Hunter) disagree on what should be done, inspiring the crew of the USS Alabama to choose sides.
There really is no right or wrong answer to this movie, everyone has an opinion and neither is to say who’s wrong or who’s right. The question that the film addresses is a breakdown in the system. If the military has a break in the ranks, then why have ranks to begin with? Does the captain have such absolute control over a nuclear submarine that he can literally do anything he wants? “Crimson Tide” isn’t like a lot of other Bruckheimer-produced movies in that it really makes you think. True, the guy can put together a blockbuster (and at the time his business partner Don Simpson was still alive), but these lack the substance that this movie delivered. Washington and Hackman go round and round with each other and both put in great performances. Washington is still at the top of his game, of course and this might have been Hackman’s last great movie. Regardless, if “Crimson Tide” is new to you, then I can’t help but recommend it.
Video: How does it look?
“Crimson Tide” is shown in a 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer that looks pretty darn good. Most of the movie takes place in the dull and dank recesses of a submarine, so there’s not a whole lot of natural light that gives us a bright and shiny transfer. I was very impressed with how good most of these scenes looked. The black levels were right on target and I saw only a few instances of any sort of artifacting. There’s tension in the air, so of course most of the actors have a fine layer of sweat on their faces and I’m not making it up when I say that I could see every bead of it. While the film is nearing its fifteenth anniversary, it’s hard to tell based on the transfer. This looks as good as it ever has on a home video format and I doubt if we’ll see it look much, if any, better.
Audio: How does it sound?
“Crimson Tide” has a rather robust soundtrack and it took me all of about 15 seconds to realize that the PCM Uncompressed soundtrack really packs quite the punch. Dialogue, of which the film has a LOT of, sounds very clear and natural. I think the biggest impact comes from the LFE and the overall score of the movie. There’s not a lot of explosions or any “wartime” action, but just enough to really raise the tension and get the audience involved in the movie. I’d previously had this on DVD and LaserDisc and this Blu-ray version blows away both versions in terms of audio.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This Blu-ray edition has been delayed a few times and the supplements seem to be what has suffered the most. This isn’t a featureless disc by any means, but I know for a fact that more supplemental material exists. Sadly all we get are two “Making of” featurettes and some deleted scenes. I’d have loved to hear a commentary by Tony Scott, but alas it wasn’t meant to be.