Monday, March 4, 2019

Crimson Tide (1995)

"In the nuclear world, the true enemy is war itself."

Hollywood simply cannot help itself when it comes to expressing its liberal hand even in military cinema.

Director Tony Scott opens with a dinner table discussion on whether the United States should have dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Given the events of Pearl Harbor, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, Democrat President Harry S. Truman did exactly the right thing to end the war and stop the endless suffering and tragic loss of lives. Additionally, I've read similar opinions shared by some Japanese writers. Truman's decision in that war demonstrates just how radically different the Democratic Party is today out there underscoring identity politics rather than the united national security secured by Truman. This is not the same Democrat in the slightest---not even close!

The decision to look at Crimson Tide (1995) follows upon a recent viewing of:

A. The Hunt For Red October (1990) and
B. Tony Scott's Enemy Of The State (1998).

Given those two variables where exactly does Crimson Tide fall within the submarine (sub)genre of the action thriller?

Enemy Of The State also featured Gene Hackman who actually elevated that material substantially. Hackman stars here in Crimson Tide opposite Denzel Washington and a tremendous supporting cast, not unlike the all-star cast for The Hunt For Red October.

On its face, The Hunt For Red October and the Crimson Tide might suggest two films with substantial similarities, given the respective color in their titles, but as it turns out that's simply untrue.

The Hunt For Red October was based on a Tom Clancy novel and Crimson Tide supposes a what if scenario of its own based upon events surrounding a Soviet submarine (B-59) during the intense stand off of the Cuban Missile Crisis. That crisis was also spearheaded by then Democrat John F. Kennedy, an arguably conservative Democrat by today's green new deal standards.

For once, Tony Scott executes credibly throughout the film allowing viewers to engage without losing them to the preposterous nature of the action that Scott often finds himself immersed. Even with Jerry Bruckheimer producing Crimson Tide managed two thumbs up from Siskel And Ebert and it's easy to see why.

Where The Hunt For Red October draws upon the political thriller and often the political calculations behind the scenes, the bulk of Crimson Tide takes place entirely in its submarine and is a lean, mean thrill ride and one of the few Scott seems to keep tight. While the events are not entirely credible, Scott sells the dramatic action effectively and we are very much along for the ride. Revisiting the work of Tony Scott I've often found he lacks the narrative intelligence adhered to by his brother Ridley.

At its core is a story of two men and their respective command decisions. Both have very principled beliefs. Both are given a set of variables, but arrive at two very different, distinct conclusions and the contrast is stark and fierce forcing two sides to be drawn and a mutiny to ensue by standing on and by those beliefs. It's also a film where crucial decisions are made by everyone and when seconds count those decisions can fall upon the most unsuspecting of shoulders. In those decisions heroes are born and/or fall.

Every time I return to The Hunt For Red October there are aspects about the thriller that leave me unfulfilled. With Crimson Tide it's undeniably as equally entertaining as The Hunt For Red October and more so for this writer.

So if you can forgive or accept the implausibility of a ship mutiny (you have to suspend your disbelief there a bit), the film is unsinkable. Crimson Tide cruises in with all the expectations of a smart, taut, terrific, submarine thriller. Helmed and led by an outstanding cast, spearheaded by the always gripping Hackman and Washington, Crimson Tide is the one that rises to the surface for me every time and torpedoes the competition. This is arguably one of Scott's best.

Director: Tony Scott.
Writer: Michael Schiffer.
Grade: A-

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Rio Bravo (1959)

Fans of director John Carpenter are well-acquainted with the director's love of the work of director Howard Hawks (1896-1977). Hawks, who had directed arguably his greatest film Rio Bravo (1959) and earlier The Thing From Another World (1951) for science fiction, was a direct inspiration to Carpenter's own Assault On Precinct 13 (1976), a reimagining of the siege spirit of Hawks' own Rio Bravo, but only resembling it in siege structure.

Even Carpenter's The Thing (1982) drew inspiration from Hawks though The Thing is more directly linked in flavor to John Campbell's short story Who Goes There? (1938).

Despite any real obvious correlations, Carpenter insists Hawks' work influenced the visual and creative mind of the man (Halloween, The Fog, Prince Of Darkness) and as such John Carpenter joined film critic Richard Schickel (of left leaning Time Magazine) for the audio commentary on the Blu-ray release for Rio Bravo.

After a dismal weekend of film viewing (Enemy Of The State, The Master), Rio Bravo saved the day.

Cinematic Wonders' appreciation of film expands into the work of Hawks and John Wayne beginning with this timeless classic.

Until Rio Bravo I'm not certain I'd even seen a John Wayne film in its entirety. I'm happy to report that a course correction is now under way.

Rio Bravo not only delivers a strong story and magnificent cinematography with solid performances across the board it actually implements two singers to complete that mission alongside John Wayne in Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson. And it does so with great effect. My Rifle, My Pony, And Me is a delight by Martin and Nelson, a song with additional lyrics set over a tune originally heard in Hawks' own Red River (1948; also starring John Wayne and Walter Brennan). Both artists are also surprisingly good in the picture.

The fabulous Walter Brennan adds some well-timed comedic spice to the mix.

Finally, Angie Dickinson tops off the cast and is a true goddess of cinema to behold. Like these films they don't make them like her anymore. She's a beauty and a sight for sore eyes punished by modern cinema spectacles.

So bravo for Rio Bravo, a wonderfully robust bit of genre storytelling in the Old West centered in Rio Bravo, Texas. The film is considered the heroic counterpoint to the McCarthy-era critique that was considered High Noon (1952). It would be writer Jules Furthman's final screenplay and as such was joined by co-writer Leigh Brackett who would one day co-write The Empire Strikes Back (1980), believe it or not, with Lawrence Kasdan, one day making the latter her own final screenwriting credit.

Rio Bravo is still considered one of the greatest Westerns ever made and is considered one of the greats in American cinema. Hawks would essentially repurpose his own film in two other variations to be seen in El Dorado (1966) and Rio Lobo (1970), his final film, both solid remakes of the essential Rio Bravo, but bravo here to Hawks' original classic.

Rio Bravo.
Director: Howard Hawks.
Writer: Jules Furthman/ Leigh Brackett.

Grade: A

Crimson Tide (1995)

"I n the nuclear world, the true enemy is war itself." H ollywood simply cannot help itself when it comes to expressing its lib...