Every fortnight (ish)* my beloved and I are watching a film by either Ridley or Tony Scott. We’re watching in chronological order. There are, of course, spoilers.
A: The captain of a US nuclear missile sub is as powerful as the president of the US or Russia? Really?
J: Ok – A proper movie tonight – Simpson / Scott.
A: the setting: a Chechen ‘rebellion’ and Russian government has been suspended… civil war in Russia, basically. OOH Cuban missile crisis analogy. And starting with a kids’ birthday party is NEVER a good sign, man. Never.
J: Dramatic opening, rain, political intrigue … heavily armoured base…
A: The CO (Cranky Gene Hackman) interviewing a new XO (Serious Denzel)… already possible cracks appearing (former raising an eyebrow at the year at Harvard…) – and then jokes from other officers about the captain going through XO. That’s what we call BODING.
J: Russian separatists, nuclear missiles and a submarine base.
A: pretty sure this is recycling some of the same soundtrack as Hunt for Red October used.
J: DIVE DIVE DIVE
A: Interesting discussion about the righteousness of dropping atom bombs on Japan, and whether they ought to be used in further conflicts… which then leads to some low-level needling of Hunter for hedging his remarks on what he thinks about using such weapons. Then continuing a philosophical discussion about war, and the purpose of war. Hunter declares that the true enemy is ‘war itself’, which I don’t think the CO loves.
J: I’ve just noticed the filmmaking approach, 1:2.35 aspect ratio, shot on film, anamorphic Panavision lenses – it really is beautiful. ~3500m of 35m film.
A: insight into the crew quarters: a dude with fish, a dude singing into a deodorant can, a lot of dudes reading. And then FIRE IN THE GALLEY! Hunter arrives in fire gear and Is Heroic.
J: Cue music from ‘The Rock’ … I wonder who wrote the score ? (Hans Zimmer wrote both naturally)
A: Captain Hard-Ass calls a missile drill at that moment, which Hunter disapproves of. OOH TENSION. And now the CO and XO have a discussion, after the death of a man, which could lead to greater understanding… if this narrative didn’t need increasing tension, that is. “We’re here to preserve democracy, not to practise it.”
J: MONTAGE … XO Skipping … Boxing … BOXING MORE … POW, POW …..POW.
A: whereas Gene, he just pets his dog and smokes cigars (no euphemisms there). Dude.
Aaaaand now we’re at DEFCON 3 (again the Cuban Missile connection), because the rebels have compromised the nuclear missile codes.
J: Seriously who brings a dog on a submarine ? (Pissing in the corridor)
A: Cranky Gene is truly good at being Cranky. I believe the word ‘acerbic’ was coined just for him.
Submarine contact; and a message to say that missile launch is authorised. TENSION RISING.
J: Ultra Quiet …. Ready to launch in 11min
A: OH NO: an emergency transmission is coming in but they’re too low to receive it. And there’s an enemy sub in the area. WHAT NOW? Now we have withering snark from Cranky Gene, and then XO asks to float the radio buoy, which THEN makes a very loud noise and EVERYONE WETS THEMSELVES. Which turns out to be totally justified because the Russian sub fires missiles at them. Which miss… just. And then a dramatic shot of the antenna cut short, when there was another emergency message. Which leads to more tension…
A: aaaand then we have an escalating argument about who is right and wrong which leds to the CO attempting to have the XO arrested for mutiny, and then XO managing to turn the tables and have the CO arrested instead. But of course, it’s the CO’s boat and the XO is new… And now there’s more missiles being fired, back and forth between the Russian and American subs… and the Americans blow up the Russians, but they launched a missile before dying… this film does sub warfare tension very nicely. We’ve got fire, we’ve got flooding, we’ve got sinking, we’ve got comms breakdown…
J: GRIPPING MY SEAT … Sinking.
A: LIKE THE PROVERBIAL STONE. There are few phrases as chilling as ‘crush depth’. Especially accompanied by the sounds of a tin can creaking.
J: passing 1650 feet …
A: Can Hunter make the hard decision? Yes he can. He gives the order to seal the bilge bay door… despite the men down there. Including Steve Zahn 😦
J: Cue Hymns of the sea …
A: SAVED IN THE NICK OF TIME. Writers and director, truly you know your craft.
J: Yes I’ve watched this film many times and I’m still GRIPPING MY SEAT.
A: And then there’s a full-scale mutiny, led by James Gandolfini, and it all revolves around whether you should pay attention to the orders you definitely have or the orders you might have. Poor Weps is in the worst position, of course – friends with the XO, confronted by many of his long-standing comrades with the idea that the XO is a coward…
J: Mutiny taking place in sync with the XO setting up his play … Lots of guns in the C and C.
A: guns on a sub seem like as bad an idea as cigarettes, although there have been a few people smoking in the sub already in the film. Gandolfini is enjoying this mutiny WAY too much.
And now there’s a counter (counter?) mutiny… they’re all so beautifully well trained in the way they fall into line.
Now not only are we in a mutiny but we are arguing about whether we’re launching missiles. Daaaaang.
J: Corridors in Space
A: the CO has lost it enough that he’s threatening innocent crewmen. What’s interesting here is that exactly as the XO is gaining support – of people who were not initially on his side, especially – the CO is managing to lose them. And Weps is right in the middle of it all. Poor Aragorn. He’s kinda the bellwether for the crew.
J: #1 did not fire sir … The captains key has been removed.
A: And the respective attitudes of the CO and XO are also indicative. Cranky Gene gets angrier, Hunter gets cooler and more focussed.
How could a crew possibly function after this?
J: No Nukes, No Nukes .. even the dog likes it… Seem like a discontinuity as we go back to normal with no comment.
A: Interesting: I’ve always read this moment as Cranky Gene relinquishing command completely to Hunter, rather than just stepping away for a moment – basically acknowledging the correctness of Hunter’s actions.
J: Love some Navy Whites.
A: Courtroom: turns out Cranky Gene is scrupulously honest when he’s not under immense pressure.
It seems an odd way to end the film: everything has subsided in Russia, so that’s good, but we actually end with Cranky Gene refusing to accept responsibility for actions to Hunter’s face, despite it being clear he’s praised the man to the naval judges. And then he just walks off with his stupid rat-dog.
Actors out of place:
Aragorn with a haircut?! In a clean uniform?! (and being VERY PRECISE about ironing said uniform. VERY precise.)
Rocky Carroll – well, I guess it’s still the navy…
James Gandolfini NOT being the kingpin (although he could be seen as a lynchpin…)
Steve Zahn, being not nearly as funny as when he’s being Al Giordino
The valet-turned-everything cool in Las Vegas (James Lesure) as a guard with one line
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