Crimson Tide (film)

Crimson Tide (film)
Crimson Tide

The movie poster for Crimson Tide
Directed by Tony Scott
Produced by Don Simpson
Jerry Bruckheimer
Written by Michael Schiffer
Richard P. Henrick
Quentin Tarantino
Starring Denzel Washington
Gene Hackman
Music by Hans Zimmer
Cinematography Dariusz Wolski
Editing by Chris Lebenzon
Distributed by Hollywood Pictures
Release date(s) May 12, 1995
Running time 116 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $53 million[1]
Box office $157,387,195

Crimson Tide is a 1995 submarine film directed by Tony Scott, produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, and written by Michael Schiffer and Richard P. Henrick. It takes place during a period of political turmoil in the Russian Federation, in which ultranationalists threaten to launch nuclear missiles at the United States and Japan. It focuses on a clash of wills between the seasoned commanding officer (played by Gene Hackman) and the executive officer (played by Denzel Washington) of a nuclear missile submarine, arising from conflicting interpretations of an order to launch their missiles.

The film was scored by Hans Zimmer, who won a Grammy Award for the main theme, which makes heavy use of synthesizers in place of traditional orchestral instruments.



The film takes place during a period of instability in Russia. Units of the Russian military loyal to Radchenko, an ultranationalist, have taken control of a nuclear missile installation and are threatening nuclear war if either the American or the Russian government attempts to confront him.

The United States nuclear strategic missile submarine USS Alabama is assigned a patrol mission, to be available to launch its missiles in a preemptive strike if Radchenko attempts to fuel the missiles his men have captured. Captain Frank Ramsey (Hackman) is the commanding officer of the sub, and one of the few commanders left in the Navy with any combat experience. He chooses as his new executive officer (XO) Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter (Washington), who has an extensive education in military history and tactics, but no combat experience.

During their initial days at sea, tensions between Ramsey and Hunter become apparent due to a clash of personalities: Hunter's more analytical, cautious approach towards his mission and the men, as opposed to Ramsey's more impulsive and intuitive approach. The Alabama eventually receives an order from the National Command Authority to launch its missiles on the Russian nuclear installation, based on satellite information that the Russians' missiles are being fueled. Before the Alabama can launch, a second message arrives but is cut off by the attack of a Russian attack submarine friendly to Radchenko. Too deep for communications, under attack and with a launch order, Captain Ramsey decides to proceed with the launch. Hunter refuses to concur as is procedurally required to launch, and instead tries to convince Ramsey to confirm the second message, which he believes is possibly a retraction of the launch order.

When Hunter refuses to consent to the missile launch, Ramsey tries to relieve him of duty and replace him with a different officer. Instead, Hunter orders the arrest of Ramsey for attempting to circumvent nuclear launch protocol. These acts split the crew into two groups; those in support of Hunter and those in support of Ramsey. A mutiny ensues and command of the Alabama changes hands several times while being attacked by the Russian submarine. Crew members race to try to restore communications while the battle for command continues. Finally, Hunter and Ramsey agree to a truce; they will wait until the maximum deadline for missile launch to see if communications can be repaired in time.

After several tense minutes, communications are restored and the officers finally see the full message from the second transmission. It is a retraction ordering that the missile launch be aborted, confirming Hunter's presumption. Radchenko's rebellion was swiftly quelled after Russian loyalists attacked his compound, forcing his men to surrender. After returning to base, Ramsey and Hunter are put before a Naval tribunal to answer for their actions. The tribunal concludes that both men were right and wrong, though they believe that Hunter's mutiny was justified. Unofficially, the tribunal chastises both men for opening a can of worms concerning nuclear launch protocol. Thanks to Ramsey's personal recommendation, the tribunal agrees to grant Hunter his own command while Ramsey opts for early retirement. Both men then reconcile their differences and part ways.



The score for Crimson Tide was composed by Hans Zimmer, and employs a blend of orchestra, choir and synthesizer sounds. It includes additional music by Nick Glennie-Smith and the music was conducted by Harry Gregson-Williams. Within the score is the well known Naval Services Hymn, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save", composed by Alan Menken. The score won a Grammy Award in 1996, and has been described by Zimmer as one of his personal favorites.[2] The theme was later covered by the Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish, on their From Wishes to Eternity live DVD.

The film has uncredited additional writing by Quentin Tarantino, much of it being the pop-culture reference-laden dialogue.[3][4][5]

The U.S. Navy objected to many of the elements in the script — particularly the aspect of mutiny on board a U.S. ship — and as such, the film was produced without the assistance of the U.S. Navy.[6] The French Navy (Marine Nationale) assisted the team for production with the French aircraft carrier Foch and one SNLE.


Box office

Crimson Tide earned $18.6 million in the United States on its opening weekend, which ranked #1 for all films released that week. Overall, it earned $91 million in the U.S. and an additional $66 million internationally, for a total of $157.3 million.[7]

Critical reception

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 87% of 46 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.5 out of 10.[8] In addition, 91% of Rotten Tomatoes' "Top Critics" gave the film a positive rating, with an average score of 8 out of 10.[8] While critics agreed that it was a "boy's movie"[9] all the way, many thought that it excited the intellect as well as the adrenaline glands. A number of critics cited Hackman and Washington's performances, and enjoyed the film's snappy, pop culture inflected dialogue.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "This is the rare kind of war movie that not only thrills people while they're watching it, but invites them to leave the theater actually discussing the issues,"[10] and Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "Crimson Tide has everything you could want from an action thriller and a few other things you usually can't hope to expect."[11]

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly wrote that, "what makes Crimson Tide a riveting pop drama is the way the conflict comes to the fore in the battle between two men. ... The end of the world may be around the corner, but what holds us is the sight of two superlatively fierce actors working at the top of their game."[12]

In contrast, Janet Maslin of The New York Times criticized the film's "blowhardiness" and superficial treatment of apocalyptic fears. She noted that there is "... something awfully satisfying about the throbbing missiles and cathartic explosions that constitute this film's main excitement," but felt that "... nothing else here delivers a comparable thrill."[13]


Crimson Tide was nominated for three Academy Awards, for Editing, Sound (Kevin O'Connell, Rick Kline, Gregory H. Watkins and William B. Kaplan) and Sound Editing.[7][14]


  1. ^ "Crimson Tide (1995) - Box office / business". IMDb. Retrieved July 25, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Hans Zimmer Interview". Film Score. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  3. ^ Peary, Gerald (August 1998). "Chronology". Quentin Tarantino Interviews. Conversations with Filmmakers Series. University Press of Mississippi. p. xviii. ISBN 1-57806-050-8.,M1. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  4. ^ "Crimson Tide starring Denzel Washington uncredited writing by Quentin Tarantino". Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  5. ^ "Quentin Tarantino Biography". Yahoo Movies. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  6. ^ Suid, Lawrence (2002). Guts & Glory: The Making of the American Military Image in Film (2 ed.). University Press of Kentucky. pp. 748. ISBN 0813190185, 978-0813190181. Retrieved 2/12/2009. 
  7. ^ a b Crimson Tide at Box Office Mojo
  8. ^ a b Crimson Tide at Rotten Tomatoes
  9. ^ Variety Staff. "Crimson Tide," Variety (Dec. 31, 1994).
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Crimson Tide," Chicago Sun-Times (May 12, 1995).
  11. ^ LaSalle, Mick. "Tension Hot in Crimson: Submarine thriller a first-rate story," San Francisco Chronicle (May 12, 1995).
  12. ^ Gleiberman, Owen. "Movie Review: Crimson Tide," Entertainment Weekly (May 12, 1995).
  13. ^ Maslin, Janet. "FILM REVIEW: CRIMSON TIDE; Deciding the World's Fate From the Ocean's Bottom," The New York Times (May 12, 1995).
  14. ^ "The 68th Academy Awards (1996) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-23. 

External links

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