October 24, 2018: Hunter Killer, The New Cold War? (Movie Review)

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A Brief History

On October 24, 2018, Americans have just 2 days to wait for the latest action-adventure movie showcasing brave and capable American heroes saving the world, a submarine based thriller featuring almost super-hero-like Navy Seals.  Oddly enough, Hunter Killer has a high profile cast of Hollywood stars that are not even American!  Gerard Butler (Scottish, as the captain of the USS Arkansas), Gary Oldman (English, as the American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Caroline Goodall (English, as the American President), David Gyasi (British, as Chief of the Boat on the Arkansas), Troy Stephens (English as the commander of the Navy SEALs squad), and Michael Nyqvist (Swedish).  In spite of the large number of foreign actors in the cast, many of which play Americans, every actor cast to play a nationality other than that of their birth does a creditable job and the audience would be totally unaware of international flavor of the cast if they were not familiar with the actors.  In fact, the casting works well to a satisfying degree.

Digging Deeper

The short story is, we were entertained by the movie.  Lots of action, nifty special effects and eye candy and the sort of over the top action American audiences seem to adore.  (By American audiences, we include us!)  Sure, some of the action is a little unrealistic, with wounded characters somehow finding the unlikely ability to functions almost without regard to injury at times, giving a level of inconsistency to the film.  No matter how highly you regard Navy SEALs, what 4 men can accomplish against a heavily defended Russian military base cannot possibly approach the level of mayhem and effective action Hunter Killer wants us to believe is possible.  Bits of corny dialog will also draw attention from those looking to analyze the movie as if it were a documentary and not an action-adventure film meant to entertain, not educate.  Along with some of the corn, the humor thrown in has already drawn some critical comment, although our test audience laughed at the right times, so we think the writing must have worked.  Another criticism we have of the film is that the Russian submarine sailors are dressed in what appears to be a dress uniform rather than a working utility type uniform.  What the heck?  Seriously, could the movie makers not have researched the actual uniforms Russians wear when under the ocean?  (By contrast, American submariners are clad in no-nonsense working uniforms.)  Finally, we strongly feel that the extreme resistance to the decisions of Captain Glass, skipper of the Arkansas, by his executive officer were way overplayed in a glaringly unrealistic way that in real life would get the XO locked up on the spot and later court martialed.  Instead, Gerard Butler calmly lives with his recalcitrant, damn near mutinous XO and magnanimously remains his buddy when the coast is clear.  The injection of a Russian submarine captain into the American response is a little ridiculous, as the incredibly fast bonding between the American and Russian captains is most improbable as they team up to save the world.  While the American President is in the thick of early response to the crisis, she is weirdly absent from the most critical part of the operation.

War related movies are seldom without inaccurate depictions of people, weapons, and events, but in this case despite our pointing out of the above flaws in the film, the bottom line is the story works.  Submarines fighting below Arctic ice, Russian political mayhem that threatens the peace of the world, fantastically capable and heroic Navy SEALs, blundering, blustery lily-livered senior officers versus calm, intelligent and serious senior officers, lots of shooting and explosions make for an action film with plenty of action to keep the audience entertained and involved at all timesHunter Killer is a fast paced film that provides real tension and gut wrenching developments, even if some aspects are a little hokey.

Hunter Killer (no real spoilers here) is about a US submarine and team of Navy SEALs sent to investigate the sinking of an American and a Russian submarine near an Arctic Russian naval base.  Dire political shenanigans among high ranking Russians threatens the Russian government and the peace of the world, something these few Americans must put right against incredibly long odds.  Not meant to be as somber as a submarine classic such as Das Boot, and without quite the seriousness of The Hunt for Red October, Hunter Killer is more along the lines of London Has Fallen, White House Down or Olympus has Fallen, The Marine, or Rambo: First Blood Part II.

Theatrical release poster

Hunter Killer addresses the current world situation in which Russia represents a threat to world peace, though in a different way than the current political situation in that country.  The film is definitely entertaining, and we suspect it will be enjoyed by audiences as much as our test audience obviously enjoyed the movie, although with serious competition from Venom and Halloween this October the box office will probably not reflect a decreased box office than the film deserves.  We were wishing the movie had been shown in 3D, so if you get a chance to see the film in 3D, do it!  The running time of 121 minutes seems much shorter, which is always a good sign.

We liked Hunter Killer and we recommend the film to virtually all audiences that love action and “American” heroes.

Theatrical release poster

Questions for students: What are you favorite war movies?  Which ones do you find to be most historical accurate?

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Clancy, Tom and John Gresham. Submarine: A Guided Tour Inside a Nuclear Warship (Tom Clancy’s Military Reference Book 1). Berkley, 2009.

Reed, W. Craig. Red November: Inside the Secret U.S.-Soviet Submarine War. HarperCollins, 2010.

Red November: Inside the Secret U.S.-Soviet Submarine War (Paperback)

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The featured image in this article is a poster for Hunter Killer.  The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Summit Entertainment, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist.  It is believed that the use of scaled-down, low-resolution images of posters to provide critical commentary on the film, event, etc. in question or of the poster itself, not solely for illustration qualifies as fair use under the copyright law of the United States.   Because the image is poster art, the entire image is needed to identify the product or service, properly convey the meaning and branding intended, and avoid tarnishing or misrepresenting the image.  The copy is of sufficient resolution for commentary and identification but lower resolution than the original poster. Copies made from it will be of inferior quality, unsuitable as counterfeit artwork, pirate versions or for uses that would compete with the commercial purpose of the original artwork.  As film poster art, the image is not replaceable by free content; any other image that shows the same artwork or poster would also be copyrighted, and any version that is not true to the original would be inadequate for identification or commentary.  Use for this purpose does not compete with the purposes of the original artwork, namely the creator providing graphic design services, and in turn the marketing of the promoted item.

Hunter Killer Movie Poster 18 x 28 Inches (Kitchen)

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.