By Steven Sheehan.
They say timing is everything although some things arrive more awkwardly than others. With political tensions between America and Russia currently sky high, any fictional stories about the two ought to play it safe.
Step forward Gerard Butler and his new film, Hunter Killer, a film the actor believes will resurrect the submarine thriller sub-genre.
It sets out the scenario of the Russian president being kidnapped before being saved by the Americans.
Of course, the world might also have to be saved in the process. Vladimir Putin is probably laughing his head off as we speak. Over in Washington, Trump probably thinks Hunter Killer is a documentary.
Deep in the Arctic Ocean, a Russian submarine is being tracked by the Americans. They watch on as the Soviets are blown to smithereens, before being torpedoed out of the water themselves.
Back in the US, it’s panic stations under the watch of Admiral Charles Donnegan (Gary Oldman). His second in command, Rear Admiral John Fisk(Common) collaborates with the NSA’s Jayne Norquist (Linda Cardellini) to send a team of Navy SEAL’s out to take a closer look.
Meanwhile, Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) is given command of a submarine to find out why their fellow Marines were killed in Russia.
At a naval base in Russia, a military coup sees President Zakarin placed under arrest by a rogue Soviet General. His plan is to engage the American Navy to start WWIII. It’s now up to Glass to stop it from happening.
Glass has quite the job on his hands, responsible for saving the entire planet, or wiping it out. Gerard Butler may not be the first man you’d call upon for the job, but he’ll have to do.
Over the years he’s built a reputation for overacting and scene chewing. Here he tones it down quite a bit and steadies the ship to lead the film with calm authority.
This is South African director Donovan Marsh’s first shot at the big time and he shows real promise. The action is clear-cut and you always know where everyone is and what’s happening. When a torpedo detonates you can feel the explosion as if you are right there inside the vessel itself.
A submarine isn’t the most exciting thing to look at on screen and it relies on the director to build the tension in other ways. Marsh manages this throughout and the two-hour runtime never drags.
The inside of the submarine feels real and not at all like a set, immersing us into its claustrophobic bowels. It feels completely authentic as if we are riding 700 feet below the surface of the sea.
Of course, the Americans are the heroes here, although the Russians aren’t demonised and made into the evil bad guys. The language is one of working together to stop a catastrophe from happening.
Not all of the CGI is convincing and it takes some suspension of belief to think this could ever happen. But as a simple thriller, Hunter Killer stays afloat and does most of what it’s supposed to successfully.
Hunter Killer is released nationwide on Friday 19th October.