Hunter Killer

The Hunt for Red October. Crimson Tide. Das Boot. These are the some of the greatest submarine movies ever made. Hunter Killer is not on that list.

That’s not to say that this movie isn’t entertaining. Gerard Butler appears alongside a surprisingly well stocked cast including Academy award winner Gary Oldman, Emmy winner Michael Nyqvist, Common and Linda Cardellini to create a gripping experience that is high action and suspense throughout the entire film. But where it excels in action it falls short in story and character development.

The action begins right off the bat; and within 5 minutes of the opening credits two submarines are destroyed and the world is on the brink of World War 3. Commander Joe Glass (Butler), despite never having captained a submarine before, is field promoted into command of the USS Arkansas, considered a Hunter Killer submarine, and sent to investigate the missing subs. During the course of his investigation, he discovers that not all is what it seems. Meanwhile, Rear Admiral John Fisk (Common) and NSA Agent Jayne Norquist (Cardellini) are at the Pentagon with some issues of their own. Using a Navy Seal recon team, they’ve discovered that a Russian military coup is in progress and the only way to prevent a war is to rescue the captive Russian president. In the end, all three teams need to work together in order to steer the two countries away from being driven into a nuclear confrontation by a rogue Russian defense minister.

To its credit, this movie is what it is. Pure, driven action with few breaks and absolutely no subplots or side stories. Despite there being three main teams within the film (the submarine, the recon team and the Pentagon team) all three are focused on the same objective and there is very little deviation from their respective missions. There’s no accompanying love story or unshown historical conflict between two characters. There’s not even much in terms of character development beyond the typical “old crew learns to trust new and unproven leader”. This is as close to a pure action movie as you’re going to get. Every single line, scene and character is used to further an explosion in some way or another.

This is the first big project for director Donovan Marsh who, prior to this, hasn’t had anything close to this quality of cast or this kind of budget. Hunter Killer has actually been tossed around the studios for a number of years with other notable directors including Tony Scott (Crimson Tide) and Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) previously attached to the script. While it would have been exciting to see what either of those two could have done with this film, Marsh does manage to keep things alive by maintaining that constant stream of action and suspense. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to be able to elevate the picture above that basic level. Despite an all-star cast who performed excellently, the movie remains essentially one-dimensional.

If you’re looking for a tense (Crimson Tide), intelligent (Hunt for Red October) submarine movie that looks a little more like a political thriller and a little less like an advertisement for the Navy, then this movie is not for you. However, if you’re in need of a bit more action and a lot less subtext, then Hunter Killer makes for a great night out full of explosions, amusing jokes and better acting than the dialogue really deserved.



3 stars out of 5