Sunday, August 13, 2017

#4 Crimson Tide vs. #12 Hell and High Water


DIALOGUE:  The dialogue in “Crimson Tide” is not flowery.  It does lack in sailor jargon since the movie concentrates on the officers.  There are some philosophical discussions between Ramsey (Gene Hackman) and Hunter (Denzel Washington) on topics like Hiroshima and von Clausewitz.  The confrontations between the two mutineers (that’s right, each leads a mutiny) are pretty intense.  Quentin Tarantino was brought in to add pop cultural references to the script.  GRADE  =  A 

“Hell and High Water” puts a scientist and his comely assistant on board a boat with a motley crew and a hard-boiled skipper.  Much of the dialogue pits science against the military mind.  There are no memorable lines, but the actors are not forced to embarrass themselves by what comes out of their mouths.  GRADE  =  C

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  Crimson Tide  =  9
                                             Hell and High Water  =  7

SPECIAL EFFECTS:  “Crimson Tide” had the benefit of cutting edge technology and a big budget.  It did not have the cooperation of the US Navy.  It tends to frown on plots involving mutinies.  The director did manage to film the actual USS Alabama at sea and submerging.  Everything else was CGI.  There is a duel between subs that is better than in “The Hunt for Red October”.  The movie manages to get a fire into a sub movie.  This is truly a Hollywood production.  The sound effects were worthy of an Academy Award nomination.  GRADE  =  A

“Hell and High Water” had a budget of less than $2 million. Denzel Washington was paid $7 million to make “Crimson Tide”.  Not exactly a level playing field.  The littler movie did well with what it had.  The underwater scenes are better than average and the film was nominated for Best Effects.  GRADE  =  B

HALFTIME SCORE:  Crimson Tide  =  18
                                   Hell and High Water  =  15

ACTION:  “Crimson Tide” has a galley fire and a sub duel, but it’s mostly the threat of violence that dominates the latter part of the film.  The level of action would have gone off the meter if all those guns had been used in the final confrontation between the opposing sides.  As it is, we had to be content with verbal fisticuffs.  The movie is more of a thriller than an action movie.  GRADE  =  C

“Hell and High Water” has a tangle with a Chinese sub and two shore landings.  In the sub encounter, they ram the enemy under the water.  Well, that’s different.  The first commando raid is your typical blow things up type.  The second gives the sexy female scientist the chance to shoot a guard.  That is also something you don’t see in every sub movie.  Oh, and they shoot down a B-29.  GRADE  =  B

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  Crimson Tide  =  24
                                              Hell and High Water  =  23

ACCURACY:  “Crimson Tide” posits a doomsday scenario that cannot be judged for accuracy.  However, the way the sub handles the crisis can be judged based on American nuclear doctrine and procedures.  The scenario involves Russian rebels getting control of some ICBMs and possibly firing them at the U.S.  The clock-ticking nature of Hollywood thrillers requires the missiles to be fueled up before launched when in reality they would be ready to go immediately.  The biggest artistic license is with the central issue of the exec refusing to concur with the launch because he feels a second incomplete message is likely a cancel order.  In reality, the exec has only the power to confirm the authenticity of the message, not stop its implementation.  There were sub veterans, including the technical adviser who had skippered the real Alabama, who insisted the movie was essentially accurate.  A political adviser might have been nice since American nuclear doctrine is against a preemptive strike.  Not that a President might not violate that rule.  (Who are you picturing right now?)  All of the inaccuracies were classic artistic license to enhance the drama.  GRADE  =  C

“Hell and High Water” is totally fictitious.  It is very much a product of the early Cold War.  Although entertaining, it is totally preposterous.  The Red Chinese have a plan to use a purloined B-29 to drop an atomic bomb and blame it on the U.S.  International scientists hire a rogue sub to stop the bad guys.  Surely you read of this in your history textbook.  And a woman scientist in 1954 – come on!   As Capt. Jones says:  “So tell me Professor, what makes a girl who looks like that get mixed up in science?”  GRADE  =  D

FINAL SCORE:  Crimson Tide  =  30
                           Hell and High Water  =  28

ANALYSIS:  I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about war movies, but I have to admit I had never heard of “Hell and High Water” before starting work on this tournament.  When I began to hunt for 16 sub movies that fit my criteria I ran into it.  It almost did not make the cut because I was unsure that I would be able to get a copy.  It is not a well-known movie.  I am glad it worked out because it was an enjoyable movie to watch.  This matchup was one between an obscure B-movie and a blockbuster.  “Crimson Tide” could not be more different.  It is the better movie, but mainly because of all the resources available to it.  Still, “Hell and High Water” put up a good fight and hopefully its performance will encourage others to seek it out.

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