The Watchers

The Watchers

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Rhys' Retro Collection #4 - Crimson Tide

So, once again, I filter through my collection of VHS, but this time I’m looking for a particular film – Crimson Tide.

Why did look for this one amongst the rest? Tony Scott.

I felt the need to watch something of his – so why not watch something not too obvious? The film sees Scott re-team with producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer again and also it is the start of his working relationship with Denzel Washington (which would span four further films)

The film is set in modern times (1995) during a crisis happening in Russia, where a radical revolutionist has gained control of nuclear weapons and- worse still- the support of various Russian military. Gene Hackman’s submarine is put to sea on a covert mission to arrive and prepare to launch a first strike package of nuclear missiles. In the scene just before the sub sets sail, Hackman addresses his crew at night in the soaking rain. This is a great example of how Scott makes what could easily have been a mundane scene special. He adds texture; sets it at night, lashes rain down around the characters, surrounding them within water even before they’re aboard the sub.

As Captain Frank Ramsey, Gene Hackman brings what you expect from this amazing actor – stoic leadership, a firm hand, a mature intelligence and above all else complete believability. Hackman owns the screen when he talks and you are completely sucked into this world because of it. This film has reminded me that Hackman has been retired now for nearly a decade and what presence we are missing on cinema screens.

Denzel Washington brings his game and manages to go toe to toe with Hackman. Washington plays an Harvard-educated officer, not a pacifist but a man who- faced with nuclear war- sees it as not a final solution but as a beginning of a holocaust. This is the story – the story of two men and the crew beneath them. In many ways, it’s a modern version of Mutiny On The Bounty. The orders are given and everything is in place, but then- due to various circumstances- a last minute message only comes through with a few words. They spend the whole film at war aboard this boat; it is the old dramatic question – to be or not to be.

These two heavyweight actors are supported by a phenomenal cast – Viggo Mortenson, James Gandolfini and the underrated George Dzundza. Also, watch out for two actors here that appear on their rise to fame- Steve Zahn and Ryan Phillippe!

If you want a film that not only entertains you, challenges you and is directed superbly (using every visual tool, to slickly present a film that is in essence all set on one location and manages to thrill you), this is it. Go past the dated music and some over use of film filters; this is a fantastic example of cinema from the 1990s, and a film I had forgot just how good it is.

Rating: 4 out of 5


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