Russia is in a state of Civil War.  A politician with extreme, anti-western views has taken control of some of the Russian armed forces, including attack submarines and nuclear missile silos.  Surrounded by the Russian military that is still loyal to the government, this rebel threatens to fire nukes at all his enemies — the U.S. being one of them — if the Russian government doesn’t back off.

Enter Gene Hackman, who plays a captain of a U.S. nuclear submarine; and Denzel Washington, who plays the X.O. (Executive Officer, or 2nd in command) of Hackman.  Together, they will lead their team of submariners to the front lines of this nuclear stand-off, ready to fire off their own nukes should the madman rebel decide to make good on his threats.

But civil war isn’t happening just in Russia, it’s also occurring in Hackman’s sub.  Washington is a newcomer to the boat, and right from the start he and Hackman are not in sync; and when orders come to launch the nukes inside the sub, Hackman and Washington have differing views on how to deal with the orders. ­ It escalates into submariners choosing sides and pointing guns at each other…while they are being chased by a Russian hunter/killer submarine.

I first saw this movie in the theaters and I was awed by the intensity of “Crimson Tide.”  After multiple viewings over 2 decades, that still holds true for me.  Director Tony Scott has done another great job helping to create a movie that grabs your attention from the beginning, moving fast from scene to scene and highlighted by a kick-ass soundtrack provided by the extremely talented Hans Zimmer.

One of my most memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Washington takes command of the ship, citing laws in the US Navy universe for his reasons for relieving Hackman of his command.  At the same time Washington is doing this, Hackman barks orders to his men to have Washington arrested for mutiny.  High drama in deep seas!

My most memorable, movie moment of “Crimson Tide” has to be the scene when Hackman — showing a bit of his prejudiced nature — tells Washington of the famous Lipizzaner horses, highly trained and obedient animals that can do amazing feats of acrobatics…and the horses are all white.  Washington, smiling, says he is aware of the Lipizzaner; and that when they are born, they are black.   Ha ha!  This exchange of dialogue is amazing.  Oh, Lipizzaner are not white, they are gray…something I found out while doing a bit of research.

And now, here are a few honorable mentions in this movie: 1) there is a young and relatively svelte James Gandolfini before he became a huge star of “The Sopranos” (it’s very strange to see him without all the extra heft); and 2) Ricky Schroder is present in his first, big budget, Hollywood movie as an adult (it’s good to see child actors grow up and continue to have success in the business, and not get caught up in all that b.s. that many child actors get into).

Movie fans should know there have been many movies about submarine warfare going back to the 1940s as far as I know.  But there are only a handful that stand out: these are movies that are high intensity and bring to the audience a sense of what it must be like for those men in the submarines as they seek and evade the enemy.  “Crimson Tide” is one of those movies.   It’s not the best, however.  That honor goes to “Das Boot.”

— M