Crimson Tide is one of those movies that will either seem completely dated or incredibly relevant depending on the geopolitical circumstances of that moment. Watching it two years ago, when things were relatively more calm, wouldn’t be as enjoyable as watching today, when we’re teetering on the brink of war with North Korea and a couple dozen other countries.
It really is a masterful film that dutifully examines the conflict of staying honorable and following procedure vs. diverging from the path and following your gut. It’s a tense depiction of superior’s relationships with their subordinates and how even the strongest, most capable leaders can’t fully incorporate feedback from their underlings. And its a thrilling tale of how men must choose between loyalty to their comrades or going on a lonely but necessary independent course of action.
Denzel Washington is a thrill as Hunter, a poised, composed Naval officer. It’s a bit of an off-shoot for Washington, who is better known for his more manic energy, Oscar-winning roles. But Hunter shows Washington still can be as ferocious and intense whether he’s loud or quiet. Gene Hackman is also excellent as Ramsey, a confident, senior Naval officer who takes Washington under his wing. Hackman exerts energy and force as Ramsey, intimidating both his officers and us the audience.
But this film wouldn’t be complete without the direction of the dearly-missed Tony Scott, who is able to keep our attention throughout the film even though the near entirety takes place in a window-less vessel. Scott has a penchant for military stories and tense situations, and his strengths are played to their highest level in Crimson Tide.