Crimson Tide

May 12th, 1995


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Still of Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson in Crimson TideStill of Tony Scott in Crimson TideStill of Denzel Washington and Tony Scott in Crimson TideStill of George Dzundza in Crimson TideStill of Matt Craven in Crimson TideStill of Viggo Mortensen in Crimson Tide

On a US nuclear missile sub, a young first officer stages a mutiny to prevent his trigger happy captain from launching his missiles before confirming his orders to do so.

Release Year: 1995

Rating: 7.2/10 (42,601 voted)

Critic's Score: 66/100

Director: Tony Scott

Stars: Gene Hackman, Denzel Washington, Matt Craven

When some Russian rebels takes control of some ICBM's, the Americans mobilize. Among the vessels sent is the nuclear sub, the Alabama. But before they leave they need a new X.O. and among the choices is Commander Hunter, who hasn't seen much action. But the ship's Captain, Ramsey OK's him. While on the way, there was an incident and Hunter disagreed with how Ramsey handled it, it's evident that Ramsey doesn't think much of Hunter because Hunter was college educated while Ramsey worked his way up. They're given orders to attack but when they were in the process of receiving another order, the ship's communications were damaged, so the entire message was not received. Ramsey decides to continue with their previous order while Hunter wants to reestablish contact first. That's when the two men butt heads that ends with Hunter relieving Ramsey. Later when some men die...

Writers: Michael Schiffer, Richard P. Henrick

Denzel Washington - Lt. Commander Ron Hunter
Gene Hackman - Capt. Frank Ramsey
Matt Craven - Lt. Roy Zimmer, USS Alabama Communications Officer
George Dzundza - Chief of the Boat
Viggo Mortensen - Lt. Peter 'Weps' Ince
James Gandolfini - Lt. Bobby Dougherty
Rocky Carroll - Lt. Darik Westergaurd
Jaime Gomez - Officer of the Deck Mahoney (as Jaime P. Gomez)
Michael Milhoan - Chief of the Watch Hunsicker
Scott Burkholder - T.S.O. Billy Linkletter
Danny Nucci - Petty Officer First Class Danny Rivetti
Lillo Brancato - Petty Officer Third Class Russell Vossler (as Lillo Brancato Jr.)
Eric Bruskotter - Bennefield
Ricky Schroder - Lt. Paul Hellerman (as Rick Schroder)
Steve Zahn - William Barnes

Taglines: In the face of the ultime nuclear showdown, one man has absolute power and one man will do anything to stop him

Release Date: 12 May 1995

Filming Locations: Chapman University - One University Drive, Orange, California, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $53,000,000(estimated)

Gross: $157,400,000 (Worldwide)

Technical Specs

Runtime:  | USA: (extended version)

Did You Know?

Skip Beard, listed as a Technical Advisor, served as the Commanding Officer of the real USS Alabama (SSBN 731). He can be seen in the Board of Inquiry scene. He is the man with no hair sitting next to Jason Robards.

Factual errors: Capt. Ramsey gives the missile launch keys to only one crewman. Proper procedure is to have two crewmen receive and deliver the keys to launch control together.

Hunter: Look, it wasn't a mutiny, I did everything by the book.
Chief of the Boat: It's not about the book. If the Russians are gonna launch and we sit here and do nothing... who's gonna stop 'em? Half of me's glad the Captain came back.

User Review

One Of The Best Submarine Movies...

Rating: 9/10

As CRIMSON TIDE opens we visit various crew members of the USS Alabama as they bid farewell to their loved ones. For one man, Lt. Cmdr. Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington), it will be his first time as second in command of a nuclear submarine. Capt. Frank Ramesy (Gene Hackman) is in charge and is not shy about letting everyone know. He is a seasoned veteran, as juxtaposed with the young idealistic Hunter. The early scenes do much to set up the main conflict of the film. For example when members of the crew discuss Carl Von Clausewitz, and his 1832 work Vom Kriege ("On War"), the intellectual showdown occurs between Ramesy and Hunter. This scene not only heightens the tension, but also reveals the different philosophies of these two men, what they believe in, why they are there. This short scene goes a long way to setting up why each of these characters are so unbending when the crisis presents itself.

The Crisis: The ship has been damaged and the EAM contact that has been received is disjointed. The Russian force (who is never very carefully explained) is fueling rockets for use against the US. That's all they know. The captain wants to surface and fire, Hunter thinks he's wrong. Factions form, but the film does a good job presenting a good argument for both desicions (although you get the sense that the film makers lean towards the "dove" side rather than the "hawks"). As tensions mount, there are various shifts in power and the crew stands divided. Every member of the crew watching as the minutes tick by, closer and closer to the final moment of truth...

Hackman is at the top of his form here as the relentlessly tough Ramesy. When given a good script with room to work, there is few better at creating a solid performance. The looks he gives, the way he uses his eyes, his speech patterns, simply wonderful to watch. Washington is just as good as Hunter, and the showdown between these two men, near the end, sends sparks flying off the screen. The rest of the cast is filled out with strong actors: Matt Craven, George Dzundza, (pre LOTR's) Viggo Mortensen, and (pre 'Sopranos') James Gandolfini.

As is well known, the script received various rewrites from Robert Towne (the Clausewitz scene), Steve Zaillian, and Quentin Tarantino (the Silver Surfer references, the scene where the crew chimes in about other submarine movies). All these different contributions blends fairly well together. The story is tough and direct, and touches on points that heighten the tension. The photography, by Dariusz Wolski (DARK CITY, THE CROW), is tight and atmospheric; Hans Zimmer's score pounding and reflective. The VIP vote, however, goes to Tony Scott, who proves himself with this film. He knows when to hold shots and doesn't rush the action (as he did with TOP GUN); he paces the film well and let's his actors work for him. CRIMSON TIDE is an entertaining and challenging film that, along with films like THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER and DAS BOOT, may set the high water mark (forgive the pun) for the genre. 9/10.