Crimson Tide is directed by Tony Scott, brother of Ridley. Tony Scott debuted with the underrated chic vampire film The Hunger (1983) and after its failure then made a good many throwaway commercial films such as Top Gun (1986), Beverly Hills Cop II (1987), Days of Thunder (1990), and then several quite good action film/thrillers The Last Boy Scout (1991), True Romance (1993), The Fan (1996), The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009), Unstoppable (2010), not to mention the thoroughly mad Domino (2005) and the time travel film Deja Vu (2006). Crimson Tide though was Tony Scotts best film. It is probably also the best film made by producer Jerry Bruckheimer who specializes in large-scale no-brain special effects/action bombast like Con Air (1997), Gone in 60 Seconds (2000), and various Michael Bay films such as Armageddon (1998) and Pearl Harbor (2001).
Crimson Tide is an incredibly good thriller. Tony Scott sustains tension at a remarkably intensive level throughout, thanks to a top-notch plot. (This was apparently tinkered with by an uncredited Quentin Tarantino. The film comes with a number of amusing characteristically Tarantino-esque culture in-references crewmen fighting over who drew the best Silver Surfer comic to Denzel Washington comparing the radio technician to Star Trek (1966-9)s Scotty). What makes Crimson Tide utterly gripping is both the superb cast on hand and Tony Scotts ability to wring maximum psychological tension out of the material. Gene Hackman is, as always, excellent, giving a grandly barnstorming warhorse of a performer, one of the types of roles that George C. Scott used to be handed. Equally, Denzel Washington holds his own, playing the tightass liberal academic against Gene Hackmans populist part. The tension between the two personalities makes for the excellence of the film.
While it is principally a submarine drama, Crimson Tide is also a threat of nuclear war film that makes it fall within genre guidelines. It is interesting to compare Crimson Tide to the fear of nuclear war thrillers of the 1960s such as On the Beach (1959) and Fail-Safe (1964) in fact, Crimson Tide reminds considerably of the Cold War thriller The Bedford Incident (1965) about a psychological pursuit between a Navy ship and a Russian submarine. While 1960s Cold War cinema was concerned about the possibility of the unthinkable happening, Crimson Tide is informed by a different set of worries the driving sense in 1990s cinema is about questioning the purpose and rightness of the machine of power. It is seen that it is no longer simply right to mindlessly obey orders, but that the individual must exercise a greater moral sense and stand up for right when the machine of power can be seen to be expressly wrong. Beyond that is the sense that the machinery of power has overtaken the original purpose it was set up to further, has become corrupt, even a tool of dark and nebulous conspiracies. This is the dilemma of indecision that wrote itself out in 1990s films like JFK (1991), A Few Good Men (1992), Outbreak (1995), tvs The X Files (1993-2002, 2016 ) and here.
Crimson Tides debate is over whether one should follow orders strictly as given to fire the nuclear missiles no matter what or seek the greater humanitarian moral right instead of merely the furtherance of the blind orders. (Crimson Tide makes interesting contrast to Tony Scotts earlier Top Gun, which latched into the American military machine and Soviet conflict with gung ho relish). The dilemma is never entirely resolved at the end, with the admiraltys decision (an appearance from an uncredited Jason Robards) that both parties were right and neither wrong and the end credit informing us that the responsibility for launching the weapons has now been taken away from the captains and been given solely to the President of the US. This tends to come as a wiggle out of the films otherwise fascinating moral dilemma.
Crimson Tide was copied as the B-budget Danger Beneath the Sea (2001).
Tony Scotts other genre films included:- the chic vampire film The Hunger (1983); the psycho-thriller The Fan (1996) featuring Robert De Niro as a psychopathic baseball fan; Domino (2005), a completely out-of-control supposed biopic of a bounty hunter that ends with some fantastic elements; and the time travel film Deja Vu (2006). Tony and Ridley maintained their own production company Scott Free Productions. The two produced the cable series The Hunger (1997), an anthology series of erotic horror stories; the psycho black comedy Clay Pigeons (1998); the mediaeval adventure Tristan + Isolde (2006); the tv mini-series remake of The Andromeda Strain (2008); the modernised Edgar Allan Poe adaptation Tell-Tale (2009); the tv mini-series remake of Coma (2012); the tv mini-series Labyrinth (2012) about the quest for the Holy Grail; and the horror film Stoker (2013).
(Winner in this sites Top 10 Films of 1995 list. Nominee for Best Director (Tony Scott), Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Gene Hackman) and Best Actor (Denzel Washington) at this sites Best of 1995 Awards).