Crimson Tide

You can almost hear the studio pitch meeting echoing throughout Crimson Tide like the sonar on the soundtrack: "It's The Cain Mutiny on a nuclear submarine!" When radio communications problems aboard the USS Alabama prevent the sub from receiving its orders clearly during a tense confrontation with Russian warships, Navy officer Denzel Washington faces a huge ethical dilemma: countermand the orders of legendary Captain Ramsey (Gene Hackman) to fire nuclear missiles, or follow his command and risk launching an unprovoked nuclear war. It's really an actors' picture, and the fun is in the fireworks between Washington and Hackman, each of whose characters articulates solid reasoning behind his decision. There are no easy villains, and there's no easy way to tell right from wrong--that's what makes the nuclear stakes so terrifying. Director Tony Scott (who directed Quentin Tarantino's True Romance script) called in Tarantino to punch up the dialogue, which is why, for example, the sailors talk about Silver Surfer comic books. The digital video disc is in anamorphic widescreen; the sonorous underwater rumblings on the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack will provide you with a good opportunity to show off your system's bass response. --Jim Emerson

Production: Buena Vista Internationa
  Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 6 nominations.
 
IMDB:
7.3
Metacritic:
66
Rotten Tomatoes:
87%
R
Year:
1995
116
4,116 Views

[Captain Ramsey addresses the crew before boarding the Alabama]

Capt. Frank Ramsey:
Little ducks, there's trouble in Russia. So they called us. And we're going over there and bringing the most lethal killing machine ever devised. We're capable of launching more firepower than has ever been released in the history of war. For one purpose alone: To keep our country safe. We constitute the front line and the last line of defense. I expect and demand your very best. Anything less, you should have joined the Air Force. [crew laughs] This might be our Commander-in-Chief's Navy, but this is my boat. And all I ask is that you keep up with me. And if you can't that strange sensation you'll be feeling in the seat of your pants will be my boot in your ass! [crew laughs again; Ramsey returns to dock stage and calls out over sound system] Mr. COB!

Chief of the Boat:
Yes, sir?

Ramsey:
You're aware of the name of this ship, aren't you Mr. COB?

Chief of the Boat:
Very aware, sir!

Ramsey:
It bears a proud name, doesn't it, Mr. COB?

Chief of the Boat:
Very proud, sir!

Ramsey:
It represents fine people.

Chief of the Boat:
Very fine people, sir!

Ramsey:
Who live in a fine, outstanding state.

Chief of the Boat:
Outstanding, sir!

Ramsey:
In the greatest country in the entire world.

Chief of the Boat:
In the entire world, sir!

Ramsey:
And what is that name, Mr. COB?

Chief of the Boat:
Alabama, sir!

Ramsey:
And what do we say?

Ramsey, Chief of the Boat:
GO 'BAMA!

Crew:
ROLL TIDE!

Capt. Ramsey:
Chief of the Boat, dismiss the crew.

Chief of the Boat:
Dismiss the crew, aye-aye sir. [addresses crew] Crew, department heads, attend to your departments. FALL OUT! [crew begins embarking at bugle call]

Capt. Ramsey:
Think it was a mistake, Mr. Hunter?

Hunter:
Sir?

Capt. Ramsey:
Using the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Hunter:
Well, if I thought that, sir, I wouldn't be here.

Capt. Ramsey:
Interesting way you put that.

Hunter:
How'd I put it, sir?

Capt. Ramsey:
Very carefully. [Chuckles]

[Men laughing]

Capt. Ramsey:
You do qualify your remarks. If someone asked me if we should bomb Japan, a simple "Yes. By all means sir, drop that fucker, twice!"

[Men laughing]

Capt. Ramsey:
I don't mean to suggest that you're indecisive, Mr. Hunter. Not at all. Just, uh... complicated. 'course, that's the way the Navy wants you. Me, they wanted simple.

Hunter:
Well, you certainly fooled them, sir.

Ramsey:
[chuckles] Be careful there, Mr. Hunter. It's all I've got to rely on, being a simple-minded son of a bitch. Rickover gave me my command, a checklist, a target and a button to push. All I gotta know is how to push it, they tell me when. They seem to want you to know why.

Hunter:
I would hope they'd want us all to know why, sir.

Ramsey:
At the Naval War College it was metallurgy and nuclear reactors, not 19th-century philosophy. "War is a continuation of politics by other means." Von Clausewitz.

Hunter:
I think, sir, that what he was actually trying to say was a little more -

Ramsey:
Complicated? [Men laughing]

Hunter:
Yes the purpose of war is to serve a political end but the true nature of war is to serve itself.

Ramsey:
[Laughing] I'm very impressed. In other words, the sailor most likely to win the war is the one most willing to part company with the politicians and ignore everything except the destruction of the enemy. You'd agree with that.

Hunter:
I'd agree that, um, that's what Clausewitz was trying to say.

Ramsey:
But you wouldn't agree with it?

Hunter:
No, sir, I do not. No, I just think that in the nuclear world the true enemy can't be destroyed.

Ramsey:
[Chuckling, tapping glass] Attention on deck. Von Clausewitz will now tell us exactly who the real enemy is. [Laughing] Von? [Men laughing]

Hunter:
In my humble opinion, in the nuclear world, the true enemy is war itself.

Hunter:
Captain? Got the EAM.

[Ramsey sees the EAM message which is shown incomplete]

Hunter:
What do you think?

Ramsey:
I think there's nothing on this.

Hunter:
Yes, sir. It, uh, got cut off during the attack.

Ramsey:
Then it's meaningless.

Hunter:
Sir, this is an EAM pertaining to nuclear missiles.

Ramsey:
No, Mr. Hunter, that's a message fragment.

Hunter:
Because it got cut off during the attack, sir. The message could mean anything. It could be a message to abort. It could be a message--

Ramsey:
Could be a fake Russian transmission.

Hunter:
Which is exactly why we need to confirm it, sir. All I'm asking for is the time we need to get back on line.

Ramsey:
Calm down, Mr. Hunter.

Hunter:
I am calm.

Ramsey:
You don't appear to be calm.

Weapons:
Conn/Weapons: Missile systems ready to launch in four minutes.

Ramsey:
Step aside, seaman.

Seaman:
Yes, sir.

[Faint Radio Transmission]

Ramsey:
We have orders in hand, and those orders are to make a preemptive launch. Every second that we lose increases the chances, that by the time our missiles arrive, their silos could be empty, 'cause they've flown their birds and struck us first.

Hunter:
Yes, sir.

Ramsey:
You know as well as I do that any launch order received without authentication is no order at all.

Hunter:
Captain... National Mili…

Ramsey:
[continues to talk over Hunter] That's our #1 rule. That rule is the basis for the scenario we've trained on time and time again.

Hunter:
Yes, sir.

Ramsey:
It's a rule we follow without exception.

Hunter:
Captain, National Military Command Center knows what sector we're in. They have satellites looking down on us to see if our birds are aloft. And if they're not, then they give our orders to somebody else. That's why we maintain more than one sub. It's what they call "redundancy."

Ramsey:
I know about redundancy, Mr. Hunter. [walks off]

Hunter:
All I'm saying...

Hunter:
...Captain, I cannot concur.

Ramsey:
Repeat my command.

Hunter:
Sir, we don't know what this means. Our target package could have changed.

Ramsey:
You repeat this order or I'll find somebody who will!

Hunter:
Hell no, you won't, sir.

Ramsey:
You're relieved of your position. Cob, remove Mr. Hunter from the control room. Get Lieutenant Zimmer in here now!

Hunter:
No, sir, I do not concur and I do not recognize your authority to relieve me on the command under Navy regulations.

Ramsey:
Cob, arrest this man and get him out!

Hunter:
Captain Ramsey, under operating procedures governing the release of nuclear weapons we cannot launch our missiles unless both you, and I agree.

Ramsey:
[shouting over Hunter] COB, what're you waiting for?

Hunter:
Now this is not a formality, sir! This is expressly why your command must be repeated! It requires my assent, I do not give it! And furthermore, if you continue upon this course, and insist upon this launch without confirming this message first...

Ramsey:
[shouting over Hunter] Son of a bitch... As commanding officer of the USS Alabama I order you to place the XO under arrest under charges of mutiny.

Hunter:
I will be forced, backed by the rules of precedents...

Ramsey:
[shouting at the Chief of the Boat, over Hunter] I say again, as commanding officer of the USS Alabama, I order you...

Hunter:
-authority and command, regulation 08150H6 of the Navy regulations, to relieve you of command, Captain!

Ramsey:
-to place the XO under arrest, under charges of mutiny! [Silence all round] COB!

Chief of the Boat:
Captain, please, the XO is right. We can't launch unless he concurs.

Ramsey:
[reading EAM] "To the USS Alabama: Rebel-controlled missiles being fuelled. Launch codes compromised, dissidents threaten to launch at continental United States, set DEFCON 2. Immediately launch ten Trident missile sorties." They're FUELING THEIR MISSILES! We don't have time to fuck around!

Hunter:
Sir, I think you need time to think this over.

Ramsey:
I DON'T HAVE TO THINK THIS OVER!

Hunter:
Captain, I relieve you of your command of this ship. COB, escort the Captain off the bridge, I'm assuming command.

Ramsey:
You're not assuming anything!

Hunter:
CHIEF OF THE BOAT, Captain Ramsey is under arrest — lock him in his stateroom!

Chief of the Boat:
Captain, please...

Hunter:
NOW, COB!!

Chief of the Boat:
Aye, sir. Mitchell, Walker, take the Captain below.

[Captain Ramsey and Lt Cdr Hunter face the US Navy board of inquiry]

Admiral Anderson:
Stand there, Lt Cdr Hunter, this won't take long. This panel has convened in order to investigate the events subsequent to the setting of condition 1SQ for strategic missile launch aboard the USS Alabama on 1 November. Now based on the testimony of personnel onboard the Alabama and in no small measure to that of the senior officer, Captain Ramsey, I'm prepared to make my recommendations to SUBPAC.

LCdr Hunter:
Without my testimony, sir?

Anderson:
You have a problem with that?

Hunter:
I might, sir.

Anderson:
I have known Capt Ramsey for almost 30 years. We've served together on more than a few occasions. If he is lying, this will be the first I've heard of it.

Hunter:
Yes, sir.

Anderson:
My primary concern here is the breakdown in the system. In this instance, the system failed because the two senior officers did not work to resolve their differences while preserving the chain of command. Now you may have been proven right Mr Hunter, but in so far as the letter of the law is concerned, you were both right - and you were also both wrong. This is the dilemma that will occupy this panel, this Navy, and this country's armed forces as a whole long after you leave this room. Off the record, you've both created one hell of a mess. A mutiny aboard a United States nuclear submarine. Violation of nuclear launch protocol. For the record, it is the conclusion of this panel that your actions aboard the Alabama were consistent with the best traditions of the Navy and in the interests of the United States. As such, the recommendations of this panel will be to accept, in a manner reflective of his long and dedicated service to his country, Captain Ramsey's request for early retirement from active duty and, based in no small part on Captain Ramsey's recommendation, that Lt Cdr Hunter be given his next command at the earliest possible convenience. Unless of course, you wish to challenge these recommendations.

Hunter:
No, sir.

Anderson:
Captain Ramsey?

Capt Ramsey:
No, sir.

Anderson:
Dismissed.

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Crimson Tide

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