I hate being late to movies. Even
if several somebodies try to explain to you what you missed, it's
secondhand at best, even if their memory is good and their perceptions are
better. But stepping into this
one tardy, and having to figure what's going on, created a kind of viewer
tension that the online pundits say this film definitely lacks.
Here's Gerard Butler, commanding a submarine.
He seems to have good rapport with his enlisted men, but his
second-in-command second-guesses him at every turn.
A submarine is an awfully close space for continual criticism, just
short of outright mutiny. So
there's some internal tension.
Meanwhile, these bad-ass soldier guys, armed to the teeth, are
getting ready to jump out of an airplane.
It's not clear to me what their mission is supposed to be, but
stealth seems to be an important part of it.
Though greatly prepared for a firefight, they are trying to sneak
into the Russian naval base without being detected.
They then launch an underwater drone with camera capability, to
send photos of what's happening back to some kind of situation room in
Washington. There's plenty of
disagreement in that room, as well, about how to proceed.
There's the customary high-ranking military guy with the hawkish
outlook, hair-triggered and ready to go to war in the name of national
security. But they decide that
guy needs to be Gary Oldman, whom we last saw on the big screen as Winston
Churchill, a hawk of another generation.
Back to the submarine. By
launching their underwater recon drone, they are able to ascertain that
their own sub was definitely hit by a torpedo.
It seems World War III may have started, and it's us against the
Ruskies. But wait, further on
there's a Russian sub with a big gaping hole, and no, it didn't come from
our sub's torpedo, but rather, was blown up from the inside.
Sabatoge. And further,
there's banging on the hatch that they can clearly hear, so somebody in
there's still alive. Our
intrepid captain decides to rescue the Russians trapped in there, if for
no other reason than to find out what's happening.
Turns out one of them is the captain of the Russian sub, played by
Michael Nyqvist, a veteran Swedish actor who died of lung cancer last
year. Yes, that feels a little
strange, as if you're seeing a ghost.
Now it becomes clear that what's happening is that the Russian
Defense Minister, one of those high-ranking military hawks, kidnaps his
own President so he can stage a coup, and start a War with us while he's
at it. He says that being the
aggressor will give him the advantage (probably right about that), and
that afterwards nobody will care how it started (probably not right about
Whatever their original mission,now the American soldiers on the
ground are supposed to rescue the Russian President, then deliver him to
Butler's submarine by means of a mini-sub, and then maybe he can stop this
rogue Defense Minister guy before he engulfs us all in flames.
But first we need the captured Russian sub commander to lead us
through the treacherously mined harbor surrounding the naval base.
Oh, and we also need to befriend that pesky Russian destroyer that
threatens to enter the fray and upset the delicate negotiating balance.
Will they believe their captured commander, or the sudden coup?
Is it all too wildly improbable?
Sure it is. But there
are a few harrowing moments, and a couple of good action scenes, and some
stock photos of missiles firing and modern armadas sailing that are thrown
in to add gravitas, if not authenticity.
The ending is as corny as any formulaic Western, but at least our
hero didn't single-handedly save the day; he just was the one who trusted
in a tricky route toward peace rather than the easy path to war.
That's commendable in any context, and is always better late than