In my quest to provide insightful answers to pressing issues asked by alert Quora readers; a while back I wrote a movie review. Not just any movie review, this one was on a topic near and dear to me – submarine movies.
I watch a lot of movies. A lot of what I watch is science fiction (or at least what passes for science fiction in the minds of Hollywood movie producers. Don’t get me started. And who in the hell came up with the stupid “SyFy” moniker?). Beyond science fiction, I also enjoy submarine movies, fiction or otherwise. Given that I have a bit of background with submarines, I have a certain level of expectations with submarine movies. For a fictional movie I don’t expect complete accuracy on submarine operations. But I have limits.
A Quora Question on “Crimson Tide”
The fictional submarine movie “Crimson Tide” was released way back in 1995. The premise sounded intriguing: An Ohio-class Ballistic Missile submarine gets conflicting launch orders for it’s missile during a tense Russia – United States standoff. What happens?
That was a good premise. It could have been an interesting movie. Regrettably, however, the movie execution of that premise described using polite movie review-speak language, sucked. So I was happy to answer the Quora question “What do submariners think of the film Crimson Tide?”
I consider “Crimson Tide” to be the absolute worse submarine movie ever made. And I’ve seen a lot of bad Submarine movies. Timothy Mauch pretty much covered the big points in his answer. But there’s much more bad stuff about this movie.
First – the Navy pulled sponsorship of this movie pretty early on in its production. Whenever a movie crew wants to use a privately owned facility for a shooting location they are required to pay the property owners for the use. That’s actually a nice chunk of change for most people even though it’s a tiny percentage of a (multi-million dollar) film budget. For military locations, the film crew pays into the command’s “Moral Welfare and Recreation” (MWR) fund, which is non-appropriated (not tax) money used for crew morale events.
Twice in my submarine career, I was around film crews. The first was when Clint Eastwood filmed “Firefox” in the early 1980s. The interior shots of the submarine were actually the diving trainer at my Submarine Training Facility, where I was stationed as a technical instructor. For a few days of filming, the crew paid enough into our MWR fund that a command of 250 people was able to rent a party room at the Hotel Del Coronado for our Christmas party. The second time was for the filming of “Hunt for Red October,” in the late 1980s when the film crew was on Subbase San Diego for a week.
When the Navy pulled sponsorship of Crimson Tide, the film crews lost access to the sub. The way the film crew got the footage of a submarine diving was to wait around in Hawaii for one of the Ohio-class subs to leave the base. They chartered a boat, followed the sub out, and took footage of her diving. Perfectly legal, but the crew(s) received no MWR funds for it. To me; that was a douche move by the film crew.
Ridiculous movie scenes; A mass of sailors running up and down the stairs stomping their feet when the sub dove. What the hell was that all about?
The Captain (Gene Hackman, who should have known better than to be part of this loser movie) grabbing the nametag of a sailor to read his name. Any captain of a submarine will know the names of every sailor who’s onboard longer than two days. Period. It’s part of why sub crews are so close.
The Radioman “fixing” a radio by soldering stuff. My God – I was an Electronics Technician (ET) and that would never happen. I think I used a soldering iron twice in four years on my first boat. Most electronic repairs are done by swapping out circuit cards. And Radiomen don’t do repair work anymore – that’s why the Navy has ETs. Drawing sparks with the equipment? That’s the reason Radiomen aren’t allowed to fix things.
The Captain ordering the COB to get him a gun – crap (I also say the same about the gun scene in “Hunt for Red October,” but it was an otherwise good movie). People running around the sub having a mutiny – total crap. The crews all live and work together. They are close. There’s no way they would suddenly divide their loyalties between the CO and XO. If anything; if the CO and XO had an argument in Control (I did see this happen once) the crew would move back and take bets on the winner (I’d place my money on the CO). Laughing.
And finally, the racist aspects of the CO with his officers, making racist comments at the XO in front of the crew. If that were to happen even once, the CO would be gone off that boat so fast he’d pull a vacuum behind him. Sub crews are highly screened and carefully monitored. Open racism like that just wouldn’t happen twice.
Worse. Submarine. Movie. Ever.Quora Answer
Bonus Movie Comments
As one of the follow-up comments to my answer, alert Quora member Brandi Masloff asked me the following question:
Loved “October”… any inside stories?
Well, do you remember the scene where
Val Kilmer[Correction: Alec Baldwin] (Jack Ryan) walks on board the dry dock, with a submarine in the dock and a DSRV (green thing) hanging next to the sub)? I was up on the wing wall of the dry dock watching the crew film that scene. The sub was a 594 class sub being worked on prior to her deployment. We had to shut down repair work on that sub for one week, and remove all our equipment and material from the dry dock, so Hollywood could come in with their props imitating a submarine being worked on.
Another fun fact; the advance crew came down to Subbase about six months in advance of filming and selected the floating dry dock for filming. At the time it was just a regular working dock and pretty grimy inside. When the Commanding Officer knew his dock was going to be in a movie, he had the entire interior of the dock repainted. Hollywood came back and was pissed about it being freshly painted. They wanted the grimy realistic look.
Fun times watching Hollywood at work.More Quora Answer
The Movie Reception
Somewhat unbelievably, the non-former-submarine-sailor movie-going crowd had a different reception to the movie than us actual former submarine sailors. According to the ever-wonderful Wikipedia entry on this four-fingered gagger:
The film received mostly positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 88% of 48 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.5/10. The consensus reads, “Boasting taut, high energy thrills and some cracking dialogue courtesy of an uncredited Quentin Tarantino, Crimson Tide finds director Tony Scott near the top of his action game.” Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “A” on an A+ to F scale.
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,” and ultimately gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four. Meanwhile, 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.”
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.”Wikipedia Entry: Crimson Tide (Film)
O-Kay. We’re facing the end of the world, but the two people responsible for ending the world have great chemistry between them. So we’re good. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go stick my fingers down my throat.