There's a great little scene in Tony Scott's rather satsifying Crimson Tide that has nothing to do with screaming co-stars Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman or the underwater intensity that the flick delivers in spades. Nah, it's a scene in which two Navy men discuss their favorite submarine movies. It's a witty little moment that reminds the audience that the filmmakers respect this particular sub-genre -- and will do all they can to get their own title included among the Submarine Greats.
So while Crimson Tide is no Das Boot (or even a Red October), it's more than good enough to earn a spot on the list of Submarine Must-Sees ... or at least the modern half of the list.
Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman are simply brilliant together, with the former playing a by-the-book executive officer (the "XO") and the latter having a ball as the stern and unyielding sub captain. It would be enough to say these underwater soldiers simply don't see eye to eye, and leave it at that. Unfortunately, these two men are responsible for the placement of a certain nuclear weapon -- a relationship that doesn't leave a whole lot of "wiggle room" for tension, impatience, or antagonism.
It's a craftily simple premise: An old-school sub captain insists on going through with a nuclear attack, despite that fact that his orders to do so may have been rescinded. But since the sub's being chased by some unpleasant enemies, the crew cannot surface to clarify their orders. Thus begins a stalwart battle of will between Capt. Frank Ramsey and Executive Officer Ron Hunter. And yes: punches do get thrown.
While most submarine thrillers are content to provide conflict from without, most of Crimson Tide's aggression comes from within. As expected, the U.S.S. Alabama is packed to the gills with well-intentioned seamen -- some of whom side with the captain, and others who stick with the XO. And let's just say the sub changes hands more than once or twice.
Although considerably more literate and intelligent than most of Jerry Bruckheimer's productions, Crimson Tide still shows off a few of the producers standard trademarks: the slick visual stylings of Tony Scott, the rousing musical score of Hans Zimmer, and a character actor ensemble that's just a joy to sift through. Sweating inside the Alabama's belly you'll find Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, Rick Schroeder, George Dzundza, Matt Craven, Danny Nucci, Lillo Brancato, Steve Zahn, and Ryan Phillippe ... plus there's a great little cameo by Daniel von Bargen as a mad Russian and another one by Jason Robards as an ultra-high ranking Naval official. I've said it a thousand times, and I'll say it again: Bruckheimer knows good actors.
Taken as a one-two punch of Hackman vs. Denzel, Crimson Tide is a whole lot of "guy movie" fun. The characters are set up crisply and efficiently, the conflicts are laid down clearly and cleverly, and once things get really intense ... Crimson Tide moves like a rocket. Plus it's a flick that never gets old, which makes it a perfect addition to any guy's DVD collection.
(Notes on the "extra footage" found within this Extended Edition: The theatrical cut runs 113 minutes, while the new DVD version runs about 122. The only new stuff I clearly noticed was: a sequence in which the "supporting" sailors say goodbye to their families in the rain and a few extra scenes between Washington and George Dzundza. These moments clarify the relationship between Hunter and his "Chief of the Boat," but it's pretty easy to see why this stuff hit the cutting room floor in the first place. There's also an extra scene or two in which the officers play cards and swap dirty jokes.)
Video: Anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), which makes it a marked improvement over the bare-bones disc we got back in back in '98.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, which brings home the underwater experience with a lot of rumble & boom.
The previous Crimson Tide DVD was a bare-bones affair, so it's cool to note that in addition to the extra 6+ minutes that were re-incoporated back into the flick, we also get...
The Making of Crimson Tide (19:56) is a pretty basic behind-the-scenes piece that was cobbled together from a bunch of on-set interviews with cast & crew.
All Access: On the Set of Crimson Tide (10:18) is sort of a gag reel / on-set fly-on-the-wall video. Fun stuff.
Also included are three deleted scenes and, of course, a bunch of sneak peeks for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, The Chronicles of Narnia, Eight Below, Glory Road, and Remember the Titans: Director's Cut.
If you're a fan of the flick, I'd call this one a definite double-dipper candidate. The new footage is fairly cool, the new transfer is quite impressive, and the handful of extra features were a nice throw-in. Hardly a full-bore Special Edition, but still Highly Recommended by yours truly.