Arguably one of the best (if not the best) of producer Jerry Bruckheimer's films, "Crimson Tide" is the 1995 thriller from Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott starring Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington as a submarine captain and his XO battling over a decision whether or not to attack.
As the film opens, rebels in Russia have threatened to attack the US with nuclear missiles. The nuclear submarine Alabama - headed by Captain Ramsey (Hackman) - is quickly called into action and since Ramsey's usual XO is sick, Commander Hunter (Washington) is brought on-board. The ship sets sail and the tension between Hunter and Ramsey starts to escalate, especially when Ramsey runs a surprise drill in the midst of another crisis on-board. When Hunter suggests that morale is low, Ramsey picks up the intercom and offers an ultimatum to the crew. Soon enough, a message comes indicating that firing of the ship's missles has been authorized.
An already tense atmosphere starts becoming hostile when an EAM (Emergency Action Message) that could either be telling the ship to abort the mission or attack is cut off during an attack. Ramsey thinks the only course of action in such a situation is to go ahead with their orders. Hunter challenges the direction and wants to wait for confirmation of the order before firing - but there's not much time before a decision must be made and the clock is ticking away. Soon enough, the entire ship is taking sides and both Ramsey and Hunter each spend time locked away before turning the tables on the other.
Once "Crimson Tide" gets going, the picture gains an almost remarkable amount of suspense, thanks to crisp direction from Tony Scott, the claustrophobic setting and outstanding performances from Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman (and strong supporting work from James Gandolfini, George Dzunda, Viggo Mortensen and others), who go full boil against each other in a handful of scenes in the second half of the film. The film's few action sequences are superbly done and quite tense, with Hans Zimmer's haunting and emotional score adding to the power of the scenes, especially in a sequence where the ship finds itself sinking towards hull crush depth.
Overall, "Crimson Tide" stands out as an intelligent, thought-provoking and well-acted thriller that keeps raising the stakes and keeps the suspense level high. I've seen the film many times since its release in 1995 and it's just as entertaining now as it was then.
Unfortunately, the "extended cut" of the film has not been included here. While I wasn't crazy about the "extended cut", it would have been nice to have it included here via seamless branching just to have the option available.
VIDEO: "Crimson Tide" is presented on Blu-Ray in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC) by Buena Vista Home Entertainment. The previous DVD presentation was a new anamorphic widescreen presentation that improved upon the original non-anamorphic DVD release. The Blu-Ray edition isn't without flaws, but it certainly makes a far better impression than either of the two prior DVD releases. Sharpness and detail are usually impressive, although a few scenes do look somewhat softer than the rest. The majority of the film looks quite crisp and clean, with good fine detail and depth. Smaller details, whether on faces or the backgrounds (control panels, etc.) or otherwise are often seen here with a level of clarity not present on prior releases.
While some light edge enhancement did unfortunately appear during a few scenes, it was brief and did not present much of a distraction. No noise was seen and only a few print flaws (a speck here, a scratch or mark there) were seen. The film's color palette is subdued, but the occasional instances of more vibrant colors (the glow off the control panels, for example) are presented with spot-on saturation and look quite crisp. While previous DVD editions have presented slightly smeary colors in some of the darker scenes, colors look very cleanly presented and smooth here. Flesh tones also look accurate and natural, while black level remained solid.
SOUND: The Blu-Ray edition offers a PCM 5.1 soundtrack. While the film's sound design is (as one would expect) not up to the level of similar films released recently, it still certainly does provide some great moments. Surrounds kick in during the action sequences as torpedos speed through the water and the ship rumbles into motion. The rear speakers also offer up ambience and reinforcement of the score. Audio quality is terrific, as dialogue remains crisp and clear and effects sound punchy and dynamic. Zimmer's score also sounds rich and full, as well. Strong low bass is also present at times.
EXTRAS: 3 short deleted clips, "The Making of Crimson Tide" (19 minutes) and "All Access" (10 minutes). Neither of the featurettes are new (I'm pretty sure that the longer "Making Of" is the same documentary that was on the laserdisc), but at least the longer making of does offer some good production tidbits and behind-the-scenes footage.
Final Thoughts: "Crimson Tide" remains a riveting thriller, with fantastic performances from Washington and Hackman. While not without a few concerns, the Blu-Ray title offers image quality that beats both prior DVD releases by a fairly wide margin. Audio quality is also superb, but the extras are carried over from the prior release and it's too bad that the "extended cut" of the flick wasn't offered here via seamless branching.
The Film A