Crimson Tide 1995 Movie Scene Gene Hackman as Captain Frank Ramsey on board a submarine getting ready to launch nuclear missiles

Crimson Tide [1995]

There are intense movies and there’s Crimson Tide. This is a monster of a movie that manages to keep the same level of intensity for an almost excruciatingly long period of time. I played it late last night, thinking I’m just going to start this adventure and finish tomorrow. However, once I started watching, I simply could not stop. We will be following a crisis onboard a submarine carrying nuclear weapons. I don’t want to go into details because this is basically everything you need to know about the story. Well, there’s one more really important aspect but we’ll talk about it a bit later. In the lead roles, we have two greats, Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington. And the supporting cast is just as good with the likes of Viggo Mortensen and James Gandolfini.

Crimson Tide is definitely one of the best submarine movies I ever saw. It focuses on the atmosphere and realism, trying to show us just how nerve-wracking can these situations be. The script was absolutely flawless, building authentic characters and organically creating conflict. I say conflict but I really mean chaos. While the focus is on the events taking place aboard the submarine, they have incredibly high consequences. Consequences that could influence the life of every living being on this planet. Such is the power of nuclear weapons. And I guess now is as good a time as any to talk about that important aspect I mentioned a bit earlier.

The movie opens with a news report from a CNN journalist detailing a new development in post-Soviet Russia. It would appear that the ultra-nationalist rebels, led by General Radchenko, are on the march towards a nuclear facility. And right about now, you’re thinking wait, didn’t something like this already happen in real life? Yes, the movie Crimson Tide features alarming similarities with the Wagner Group Rebellion which happened just last year, in 2023. And in case you’re wondering just how close Wagner Group and Prigozhin were to obtaining nuclear weapons, they were very, very close. To be more precise, 60 miles (100 kilometers) close to the Voronezh-45 nuclear army base. 

If they reached this facility, the only thing standing between them and the nuclear weapons were steel doors. As we all know, the rebellion ended with a whimper and Prigozhin later “accidentally” died in a plane crash. All of this makes watching Crimson Tide an even more frightening experience. However, this is not the first time an incident like this happened aboard a nuclear submarine. Crimson Tide is actually based on a real-life incident that happened on a Soviet submarine B-59 during the Cuban missile crisis. As always, I suggest you read up on these events after or towards the end of the movie to avoid spoilers. We live in a bizarre and scary world folks, that’s just the truth of it.

As a fan of closed environments and real-time flow movies, this one was a blast. The last hour of this almost two-hour movie happens in real-time. Tony Scott’s direction is excellent, showing us people under extreme pressure, both physically and mentally. The claustrophobic submarine setting with no possible way out shows just how difficult it is to serve under these conditions. I can’t even complain about all the smoking we’re about to see aboard a submerged submarine. This is something that definitely did not happen and could not happen in real life. The only time you can smoke a cigarette while onboard a submarine was when it surfaces.

Nonetheless, I think this contributed to the overall atmosphere. Unlike the dog that was mostly a nuisance and entirely unnecessary. I know they were trying to show the sheer power of Gene Hackman’s character but still. The same goes for the forced dialogue, written by Quentin Tarantino, about old submarine movies and comic books. Finally, I do have to say that they embellished or simplified a lot of stuff when it comes to physical and procedural details. However, that takes away nothing from the basic premise of the movie. If you’re looking for sheer authenticity, do check out the 2023 courtroom drama The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, William Friedkin’s last movie. 

Director: Tony Scott

Writers: Michael Schiffer, Richard P. Henrick

Cast: Gene Hackman, Denzel Washington, George Dzundza, Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini

Fun Facts: US Navy refused to cooperate with the producers of the movie because of the story and what it implied. To circumvent this, they filmed on French submarines and ships even sneaking up on the real USS Alabama and filming it, without permission from the captain, how it dives underwater.


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