Hollywood Pictures // 1995 // 116 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 29th, 2008
In the face of the ultimate showdown, one man has absolute power. And one man will do anything to stop him.
Continuing the release schedule of mid-90s Bruckheimer productions, Crimson Tide leaves port, its destination Blu-ray and its cargo -- smiles.
When a nutty Russian rebel sparks a nuclear showdown, the U.S.S. Alabama is sent out with its lethal cache of nuclear missiles, tasked with torching a large part of Asia if things get out of hand. At the helm of the submarine is grizzled old fart Captain Ramsey (Gene Hackman, The Royal Tenenbaums) and he's paired with a new Executive Officer, Commander Hunter (Denzel Washington, Déjà vu).
Though the two start out on friendly terms, the relationship nosedives when the @#$% hits the fan. Pursued by an enemy sub and taking massive damage, the Alabama is faced with some major obstacles on the way to their mission to turn Russia into a Wal-Mart parking lot, but nothing will tear the crew apart more than a breakdown in the chain of command and the threat of mutiny.
I'm so down (cha-ching!) with Crimson Tide. As intense and action-packed as submarine movies get, Tony Scott's submersible saga about two Type-A personalities butting heads while torpedoes are fired at their aft hull is a white-knuckle experience. I recall watching this sucker in the theater and just being pinned to my seat. One of Scott's more traditional and less-trippy directorial efforts is carried along more by the macho performances and unrelenting action and on Blu-ray Crimson Tide has found a format where all of its kick-assness can be fully appreciated.
Though the film employs many of the submarine genre conventions (torpedo evasion, sailors trapped in a flooding bulkhead), the twist with the dueling mutinies is a real winner. Though the traditional action elements of the submarine dogfights are super-entertaining, the real edge-of-your seat wackiness happens during the personnel problems. The success of the plot is driven in large point by the electric performances by Hackman and Washington, two heavyweights at the top of their games. The script allows both men latitude to operate in a confusing gray area, and makes it difficult for the audience to come square on the side of just one side. With stakes so high and the constrained living quarters so crammed full of Alpha males, the powderkeg is primed and ready to blow and Scott and company ensure that the bang is as big as promised.
Strong backup performances from James Gandolfini and Viggo Mortensen, and a solid assortment of "those guys from those movies," round out the A-level acting. But for the Best Supporting Actor nod, I've got to give it up to...sweat. Yes, perspiration permeates the film from stern to port and if anything augments the tension it's the sight of lantern-jawed guys with sweaty foreheads refracting the instrument panel lights in a kaleidoscope of reds and blues.
And wow does that sweat look fantastic in all of its high-definition glory. Crimson Tide is a stunner on Blu-ray (1080p, 2.40:1 widescreen), noticeably crisper and cleaner than its standard DVD version. The vast majority of the film takes place within the submarine and though gun-metal gray color palette isn't exactly reference material for home theater enthusiasts, the resolution is remarkable. The U.S.S. Alabama is crammed silly with pipes and computers and steering mechanisms, and the joy of not having to squint to make out the details cannot be overstated. And in the rare moments with more diverse colors -- the pre-dive with Hackman and Washington outfitted in a bright orange vest watching a sunset, the Naval hearing denouement -- the HD makeover is even stronger. The 5.1 uncompressed audio is just as impressive. Hans Zimmer's thundering score rocks and the sub sequences will make your living room walls vibrate.
The DVD extras make a return, and unfortunately high-def exclusives are sadly lacking. Two vintage featurettes ("The Making of Crimson Tide" and "On the Set") are decent, and the handful of deleted scenes was wisely excised. The jump-to-a-scene "Movie Showcase" is the only Blu exclusive bonus.
While not flush with interesting supplements, Crimson Tide is a fantastic technical experience for fans of high definition. Plus, it's a pretty awesome movie.
Not guilty, sailor.
Review content copyright © 2008 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Hollywood Pictures
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Master Lossless Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Movie Showcase