Crimson Tide (1995) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Crimson Tide (1995) Directed by Tony Scott. With Gene Hackman, Denzel Washington, Viggo Mortensen, George Dzundza, Matt Craven and James Gandolfini.


Tony Scott’s adeptness in the playground of male bravado continues with Crimson Tide, a brink-of-disaster submarine drama in which male ego threatens the world with nuclear holocaust. Co-headlining the film, Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington play captain and first officer of the USS Alabama – two men with opposing world views, called upon to serve together for the first time as a missile crisis develops in Russia and DEFCON4 is invoked.

With an excellent all-male cast working together on tight sets, there is a good amount of threat and tension created within the claustraphobic confines of the deep water sub. In a sense, there remains something distinctly science-fiction about submarine-set films – considering the hostility of the surrounding environment, with a highly technical crew assembled to serve aboard a vessel, heavily relying on each other amid the hazards of exploring the abyss. Add unfriendly rival subs (Klingons/Romulans) to the mix, and essentially, you’re watching an episode of Star Trek. Indeed, Denzel Washington goes so far as to invoke Captain Kirk and the Starship Enterprise in one key scene.

What really makes Crimson Tide work, though, is watching two great actors lock horns. Hackman potrays a man at the end of his career in the navy; stubborn, arrogant and disrespectful toward Washington’s more by-the-book approach. In terms of character, we’re never really asked to take sides, (Hackman is loathsome) which is a shame, especially considering the overarching dilemma presented by the plot. Alas, Michael Schiffer’s script decides from the off that the audience is emphatically Team-Denzel.

Where before it has been distracting, Tony Scott’s muscular style is a good fit for the material, as he frames the drama with lopsided camera compositions to heighten the disorientation. There is a sense that the ‘movie’ dilutes the dramatic situations somewhat, but we’re never less than fully invested. 4/5

About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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10 Responses to Crimson Tide (1995) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. I actually hadn’t heard of this movie before, but mention Denzel Washington and I’m in!

  2. Martin: Through the Silver Screen says:

    Hi Gareth, I’ve nominated you for a Sunshine Blogger Award: 🙂

  3. jimbelton says:

    The original episode of Star Trek that introduce the Romulans (the Balance of Power) was actually based on a film about a battle between an American destroy and a German uboat, The Enemy Below.

  4. Dan O. says:

    Possibly Tony Scott’s best. Nice review.

  5. Chris Evans says:

    Good write-up Gareth, I’ve always enjoyed Crimson Tide and I like the way you’ve drawn the comparison to sci-fi movie environments – and of course the moment I was geek out about when Star Trek is mentioned (along with the scene where two of the crew are fighting over which Silver Surfer is the best)!

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you my friend. Among many other things, we have Trek in common. I notice you’ve written a few pieces I really want to catch up with. Looking forward to reading your tribute to Trek on the 50th anniversary. I can honestly say that the series has improved my quality of life.

      • Chris Evans says:

        Great to hear your thoughts about Trek mate, it means the same to me. There’ll be another Trek post going up this weekend, look forward to hearing from you further!

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