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Crimson Tide – 1995 Tony Scott
- Tony Scott infuses enough energy into Crimson Tide to make the achievement of the film more than just the colossal performances of Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington. To be clear, these two great actors and movie stars are more than up to the task. Their verbal sparring and screen presence tug of war is a pleasure to witness.
- Hackman and Denzel are surrounded by quite a who’s who of future stars. James Gandolfini is part of the ensemble, as is Viggo Mortensen. If you blink, you’ll miss Ryan Phillipe as part of the crew. Jason Robards was a big name by 1995 of course (unlike the other three previously mentioned here) and he is in the epilogue in a small but crucial role. “Gus” from Basic Instinct (George Dzundza) may actually have the third most important role (Viggo’s is pretty meaty, too) after the two heavyweights- he plays the chief of the boat.
- Tony Scott often opts for full face closeups—which not only accentuates the acting- but also helps put the audience in the claustrophobic submarine.
- The outline of the story is basically a redo of the Cuban Missile Crisis (there is even some cigar chomping which made me think of Sterling Hayden’s Jack D. Ripper character from Strangelove). Scott stays active even in a confined setting—Crimson Tide has a very low average shot length (he is one of the age of MTV auteurs of course- this is what he is known for) and uses many canted angles. One has to admire how he will often interject a two-second tracking shot moving quickly from side to side—it has an effect- urgency.
- Scott frequently soaks the frame in beautiful green or red lighting (above)—these are exaggerated from the panels on the instruments in the submarine. Later, yellow flashing lights during the climax.
- This is Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) sixty years later—Denzel is on the left of the screen shouting, and going blow for blow with him is Hackman on screen right. It is hard to think of two better actors in 1995 to reprise the roles of Clark Gable and Charles Laughton.
- A close-up montage of faces reacting to Washington’s character relieving Hackman of his duty
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 1995