Submarine films, or the sub-genre, are hardly a flooded market. U-571 and K-19: The Widowmaker being the two most successful films of this century with both of those being released over 15 years ago.
Hunter Killer ups its periscope and torpedoes its way onto digital download on February 18th followed by a blu-ray and dvd release from February 25th. It’s an excellent political thriller featuring some fine performances, tense set-pieces and cleverly filmed underwater sequences. Whilst the script is occasionally a little too formulaic, gung-ho and patriotic, allowances need to be made for that given the subject matter and plot.
An American submarine goes missing a little too close to Russian waters and the United States Government hands command of the search and rescue mission to Gerard Butler’s Joe Glass. Glass is placed in charge of his first Hunter Killer, not Subby McSubface but the USS Arkansas, an attack submarine specifically designed to seek and destroy all enemy threats.
As they sink deeper into troubled water they splash upon a coup d’Etat, involving the Russian Minister of Defence and his minions, so Glass’s crew and a Special Forces team plan an audacious rescue attempt of the Russian President. Tensions within the teams run high as America and Russia are forced to work together before World War III breaks out.
Gerard Butler is on top form as a Commander thrown in at the deep end and it’s a welcome relief to watch him think on his feet rather than use a gun to make his decisions for him as we’ve so often seen before. It’s a subtle showing and one that deserves praise as he leaves the rough and tumble to Toby Stephens who is superb, and almost unrecognisable, as grizzled super-soldier Bill Beaman. The late Michael Nyqvist brings dignity and class to his Captain Andropov but Gary Oldman is sorely underused as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Indeed, he does little more than pace up and down and shout at people.
Director Donovan Marsh creates some claustrophobically uneasy moments including a nail-biting navigation through a minefield and some zinging battle scenes are helped along the way by Trevor Morris’s atmospheric score.
Hunter Killer might not bring anything new to submarine films, but it floats along nicely and at times is a ballast.
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