Wednesday, August 2, 2017

#4 Crimson Tide vs. #13 Torpedo Run


PLOT:  Crimson Tide” is a post-Cold War submarine flick.  A rogue politician has gotten control of some nukes In Russia and is threatening to launch them.  The USS Alabama is a ballistic missile submarine that the movie makes a point of describing as one hell of a powerful instrument of international relations.   And this weapon is run by the old schooler Capt. Ramsey (Gene Hackman).  Ramsey is breaking in a new exec, Lt. Commander Hunter (Denzel Washington) and they don’t see eye to eye.  Ramsey is a Republican and Hunter is a Democrat, so to speak.  When the sub receives a launch order, it’s time to do what they exist for.  But wait, here comes an incomplete message that possibly rescinds the order to end the world as we know it.  And the clock is running.  Dial up the command dysfunction to ten.  The plot is thought-provoking and fairly balanced except that it’s obvious we are to root for the black guy.  It tends to be your basic action plot of dominoes dropping to build to the desired climax and is a bit redundant with two takeovers of the boat.  It is slickly done, if you like your entertainment that way.  GRADE  =  B

  “Torpedo Run” is a WWII submarine movie.  It also revolves around command dysfunction.   Commander Doyle (Glenn Ford) is best friends with his exec “Archie” Sloan (Ernest Borgnine), but they have a falling out when Doyle decides a Japanese carrier is more valuable than his own family’s life.  Don’t ask about the details, they are too unbelievable.  Even though Archie remains loyal to his mentally unstable skipper, Doyle feels Archie has stabbed him in the back with their superiors.  Incredibly, the two get a second shot at the aircraft carrier in a harbor.  The tension is high as you wonder if the plot can get any more ridiculous.    GRADE  =  F

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  Crimson Tide  =  8
                                             Torpedo Run  =  4

ACTING:  “Crimson Tide” has Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman, ‘nuff said.  But there is also an outstanding supporting cast that includes Viggo Mortensen and James Gandolfini.  Everyone is fine, especially the two leads.  The situation lends itself to scene chewing, but the cast is mostly under control.  Washington and Hackman do not appear to be trying to top each other.  Unlike their characters.  GRADE  =  A

The strength of “Torpedo Run” should be its acting.  Ford and Borgnine are not Washington and Hackman, but they are a better duo than almost any other sub movie.  (Third behind Gable and Lancaster in “Run Silent”.)   Borgnine is good as the saintly Archie, but Ford is disappointing as he pouts or smirks his way through the role of the Ahab-like captain.  The supporting cast is low rent with Dean Jones and L.Q. Jones.  Unlike “Crimson Tide”, this movie has a female in Doyle’s doomed wife (Diane Brewster).  She makes little impression in a couple of home-life bliss flashbacks.  It’s a shame she was not allowed to emote through her husband sinking her ship.  As Archie assuages Doyle with “she would have wanted you to take the shot”, you wonder what the toddler-laden spouse really was thinking.  GRADE  =  C

HALFTIME SCORE:  Crimson Tide  = 17
                                   Torpedo Run  =  10

TACTICS:  You would think that considering the action movie plot of “Crimson Tide”, there would be no opportunity to display modern sub tactics.  If so, you underestimate Hollywood.  A submarine movie has to have torpedo firings so an enemy sub shows up to accommodate.  There sure are a lot of submerged sub duels in sub movies.  Don’t give too much thought to how a rogue politician got control of a sub or how it located the USS Alabama or why it opens fire.  Just enjoy.  The first torpedo attack is handled with countermeasures to assure potential recruits that American boomers are not easy to sink.  The Alabama survives another attack mainly through luck and suffers damage so we can have some clichés.  As far as the central conflict over the orders, the script incorrectly deems that the exec has to concur with the order to launch.  GRADE  =  C

“Torpedo Run” makes a mockery of submarine tactics.  The great white whale of an aircraft carrier is being screened by a transport carrying prisoners (including Doyle’s family, of course).  I know the Japanese were evil in WWII movies, but this movie was made in 1958.  Keep in mind that Doyle knows his family is on board and still takes the shot.  Later, the Grey Fish gets a shot at the sitting duck carrier, but Doyle does not wait for an enemy destroyer to pass by and instead the destroyer blocks all six torpedoes.  They fire torpedoes to break a hole in a submarine net!  Doyle travels on the surface even during daytime in dangerous waters.  It could be argued that he is insane.  GRADE  =  F

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  Crimson Tide  =  23
                                               Torpedo Run  =  14

CLICHES:  “Crimson Tide” certainly has the command dysfunction cliché covered.  In fact, the crew picks sides.  The bout with the mystery sub allows them to flirt with hull crush depth and deal with leaks, although the movie avoids a depth charging.  Congratulations, blacks in sub movies, you’ve been promoted to Executive Officer.  There is a revolutionary scene where Hunter eats with the other officers instead of serving them!  There is no unexploded bomb, but they do have a fire in the galley that causes problems.  Nobody is left on deck, but some men are sealed in a flooded compartment.  So basically, some tweaking of the classic clichés and avoidance of most.  GRADE  =  B

Are you expecting a clean sheet for “Torpedo Run”?   The skipper and the exec have major conflicts.  The sub is sent on an emergency mission to get the carrier.  The boat passes through a sub net and a minefield.  One of the mine cables drags along the side.  They suffer two depth chargings.  The second one is so intense they are sent to the bottom.  In spite of this, the captain gets redemption through revenge.  There is a black mess mate.  GRADE  =  C

FINAL SCORE:  Crimson Tide  =  31
                           Torpedo Run  =  20

ANALYSIS:  This match was no contest.  “Crimson Tide” was a big budget action picture that was smart enough to place a classic action scenario into the claustrophobic confines of a modern sub.  (Although it is the least claustrophobic submarine movie in the tournament.  For example, Hunter jogs on board to stay in shape.)  While it is stocked with predictable action tropes, it avoids for the most part the temptation to make a WWII submarine movie using a nuclear sub.  “Torpedo Run”, on the other hand, is a half-ass dinosaur trying to get in bed with “Destination Tokyo”.  For a Glenn Ford fan, it’s embarrassing.  

1 comment:

  1. Haven't seen Torpedo Run in a Looonnngggg time. But I remember thinking it was silly. Crimson Tide was a very impressive movie re: acting. The scene where Hackman talks about the Lie...uh...the stallions, was classic and the best scene in the movie to me. But...for some reason I just can't bring myself to watch it again. I think I'm afraid I won't like it as much the second time 'round.


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