When you look at almost every submarine movie, to some degree or another, there’s this ‘Moby Dick’ element, this Ahab element to them. – Kevin Macdonald
Over recent decades, a fascinating mashup of film genres has emerged, the political/action/fantasy. Taking audiences on a journey that incorporates modern political tensions spun together with military action, fantastical feats of diplomacy and improbable levels of destruction and violence. One action star that has capitalised on this new film category is Gerard Butler. With Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen to his credit it is not beyond the realm of possibilities to have the Scottish actor take the helm of the USS Arkansas to save the Russian president from a recent coup d’état. Just trying to get your head around this concept will cause many to do some mental acrobatics.
While on manoeuvres in the Arctic waters off the coast of Russia, the USS Tampa Bay and the Russian submarine they were shadowing vanish below the icecaps. The closest Naval response team to this potential political juggernaut is the USS Arkansas, a Virginia-class submarine which was recently put under the command of the unconventional Commander Joe Glass (Butler). His crew must come to terms with the sensitive nature of this mission and apply less-than-routine methods to investigate this nautical disaster and determine if there are any survivors.
With little military intelligence to go on concerning this potential international incident, the US military decides to send in a special Navy Seals team to get ‘eyes on the ground.’ The elite squad overcome various challenges to get to the Russian naval base that is closest to the incident. The crack team of soldiers not only get close enough to observe the Russian response, but manage to discover the treasonous intent of the defence minister Admiral Dmitri Durov (Michael Gor) to take military control of the government and to start a war with the United States.
The military leader takes Russian President Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko) prisoner and hopes to manage the coup in the remote naval station, while unaware of the small team of Americans who are working to save Zakarin. The only hope for success for the Seals is for Commander Glass and his inexperienced crew to make it through to the base to provide safe transport for the political prisoner and the American team. They wait to see if the USS Arkansas is able to navigate through the treacherous trenches that feed into the naval yard.
Reminiscent of the Tom Clancy-inspired military films that hearken back to the cold war era. An era of film when the threat of World War III was imminent, but this underwater adventure fails to carry the same weight in this modern era. As Don Keith and George Wallace’s well-worn storyline is laid against the modern political landscape, the premise and plot are shallow and the dialogue feels anaemic and forced. Butler proves to have the charisma to carry this film through, but the script and unbelievable nature of the plot do all they can to sink this film. Then to waste the talents of Linda Cardellini (Green Book) and Academy Award winner Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) with these two-dimensional characters and minimal screentime proves to be a cinematic travesty.
There is enough military action and explosions to keep the die-hard action aficionados satisfied, but not enough to cover the weaknesses of the screenplay. Even with the strong emphasis on the US military actions of submarine warfare and the special ops work of the Navy Seals, director Donovan Marsh’s film becomes more fantasy than it is an action thriller. Between the rules of physics being broken by the submarines and a storyline that exceeds all levels of diplomatic realities, Hunter Killer relies on a suspension of disbelief that will exceed the abilities for even the biggest of Gerard Butler’s fans.
REEL DIALOGUE: How should we respond to treason or breaches of trust?
Throughout human history, the label of a traitor is something that no one wants to bear. Yet, people still choose to betray relationships, countries and even God for any multitude of reasons. From Adam to Judas, betrayal is seen throughout the Bible, too. How does God respond to those who betray him? He may surprise you with the judgement and the love that is offered to those who betray him.
Passages on treason: Genesis 3, Luke 6:27-38, John 3:16, Hebrews 9:28