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CRIMSON TIDE. Directed by Tony Scott; written by Michael Schiffer; produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer for Hollywood Pictures. Starring Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman. Rated R (language)


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If your back gets stiff from too much edge-of-the-seat-sitting, then stock up on the lineament before you go to see Crimson Tide. I guarantee you'll keep inching up in that seat throughout most of the movie.

It might be possible to make a boring submarine movie, but I think they'd have to try pretty hard. There's something just inherently suspenseful about motoring about under all that water, in such cramped quarters, not even taking into account that some other subs might occasionally be shooting at you.

Crimson Tide has all this basic stuff going for it. Plus a humdinger of a mutiny story amid an all-too-plausible background of renegade Russians seizing nuclear weapons and threatening to use them.

The clash of wills that escalates to mutiny is the center of the movie, and it might not have been as effective with less charismatic stars. Washington and Hackman can generate a lot of tension just by glaring at each other; but they have a scriptful of good dialogue to say as well. It's an altogether satisfying conflict.

My personal experience with combat submarines being somewhat minimal, I can't personally vouch for Crimson Tide 's realism. But the sets, routines and procedures certainly seem authentic. The claustrophobic feel of the sub is pervasive, heightening the drama. And the little miracles of engineering and organization, like the bunks and workstations, are fun to notice.

Although the mix seemed about right to me, some passionate action-movie fans might feel there's too much talk and not enough mayhem. And the mostly shipshape plot springs a few little leaks here and there.

But, on the whole, Crimson Tide stacks up pretty well against the classic submarine pictures, which you can't help but think of since they're wittily worked into the dialogue early on. The writer took a chance, bringing them to mind like that, but Crimson Tide doesn't suffer by comparison.

May 31, 1995

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