What I Watched Last Night: Crimson Tide (1995)

Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, Viggo Motensen, James Galdolfini


The Cold War was a scary time for the human race, but happily, it proved to be a veritable gold mine for the military disaster genre. Tony Scott’s 1995 film ,Crimson Tide, makes propitious use of the unconsummated conflict by pretending that it happens all over again.

Using a real-life footage reel, Crimson Tide establishes a political climate hotter than a submarine control room filled with thirty sweating navy technicians. Pachenko, the Russian premier, has caused an international conflagration with his heavy handed suppression of a Checnyan uprising (rather topical, no?) Once the external conditions have been established, the action unfolds within the claustrophobic confines of the USS Alabama, an American (duh!) submarine packing a no-nonsense nuclear payload. Following the statutory loggerhead-lint meet and greets at the naval base, the Alabama Crew are told, rather forebodingly, to ‘fall out’ and man their battle stations.


Gene Hackman puts forth the necessaries as the truculent stogie-chomping Captain Ramsay, but Denzel Washington is more memorable as his trigger-wary foil; ‘The enemy of war, sir, is war itself’. Tony Scott was a forthright fellow, and Crimson Tide does not beat around the bomb with its message; as long as humanity exists, so too will war.

Watching Crimson Tide, The Hunt for Red October (1990) will always be on the radar. It’s impossible to re-invent the typography of the war drama while working in such an enclosed and specific environment, either from a writer’s or a cinematographer’s perspective. In truth, they’ve all looked the same since Das Boot. Unlike Red October, Crimson Tide lacks character depth even though it provides only one point of view – that of the Lynrd Skynrd blasting, comic book flicking all-Americans. It also lacks Sean Connery schpeaking with a Ruschan achcent.

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