Director: Donovan March.
Being completely honest, my initial thoughts after watching the trailer was “oh, here we go again” yet another brainless actioner from Butler which wasn’t helped by the poster tagline “from the producers of Fast & Furious and Olympus/London Has Fallen. So I went in with low expectations and a deep breath; but, despite all it’s flaws, and it has quite a few, I actually enjoyed it and for what it was, it’s a pleasing action/thriller that shouldn’t disappoint action junkies.
Based on the American best-selling novel Firing Point by former US submarine captain George Wallace and submarine historian Don Keith, this book was first published in 2012 and is actually a sequel to their first book, Final Bearing. This following a coup that puts the US and Russia on the precarious brink of World War III. Tensions run high both above and below the waves as the higher echelons of American’s military power decide and devise what plan of action to take, sending in newly appointed submarine captain, Joe Glass (Butler) and a team of Navy SEALs into enemy waters to rescue the Russian President in the hope of preventing an imminent war. The movie’s title is somewhat B-movie’esque and sounds like something Nicolas Cage would make during his days off; but it’s a real term given to attack submarines that have capabilities, if not solely to destroy other enemy submarines.
One of the biggest negatives to this movie is the self explanatory script that is more insulting to the film itself than the audience. It’s never a good thing if the script feels it has the need to explain the minor details as I’m sure a rear-admiral of the US Navy is completely aware of where the action is taking place. And there’s the lack of true Russian dialogue which is a great shame. It’s annoying when movies make everyone speak English the entire time losing a lot of ballast to its believability. It makes it worse when the actors casted are actually Russian themselves so there’s no excuse for this lazy flaw and as a result, it really makes their performances quite shoddy.
The story holds up most of the time with good pacing that keeps the suspense running smoothly. What makes this different from other submersible movies is that we’re not confined to tight spaces with people staring at sonar blips, listening to sonar pings; it’s nicely balanced with some surface action that looked and sounded like Lone Survivor. Some bits don’t make logical sense but it’s forgiven to make way for cheesy yet acceptable heroics.
Surprisingly , Butler keeps his feet on the vessel and whilst slightly tweaked from it's original source material, he’s a likeable character. Butler and director March spent a few days aboard the USS Houston for research purposes; a sub that was once under the command of co-author Cdr. Ret. George Wallace. Though Oldman makes second billing, he’s nothing more than a name to bolster the movie’s appeal. Though his presence is certainly heard and seen. Common and Linda Cardellini provide additional support but their characters feel like they’re just put there to flesh out the plot.
It’s not the first time Toby Stephens plays an American elite soldier after 13 Hours, this time playing the admirable, hardball Navy SEALs squad leader. And the rest of his team are afforded just enough time for audiences to connect and respect them. Sadly, this was Michael Nviquist’s last and final role before his untimely death, and having recently played villainous characters from John Wick and Mission: Impossible, his character here as a highly decorated and respected Russian Submarine captain is probably a good send off for him. The film being dedicated to him also.
The visual effects were up to spec with some nice underwater cinematography, but the production as a whole reflects a cheaper budget, hinting at the film’s possible financial struggle of keeping names like Oldman and having good visuals whilst sacrificing decent sets and possibly having a smaller name like Donovan March to direct, though, flaws aside, he does a fine job and I look forward to see what project he takes on next. This not being a bad calling card to his filmography.
But with all it’s negatives and predictability, it doesn’t actually sink and is actually a highly enjoyable action thriller with enough suspense to kept the film afloat. The action is fluid and exciting enough, though corny and cheesy most of the time, there’s a good moral theme of humanity, which has me wondering if this is a message to not just would-be enemies of any state and country, but a message of honour and hope for the greater good of anyone in such dangerous and turbulent situations on either side. It’s no masterpiece by any means but it’s definitely better than the recent action films Butler has decided to produce and star in, beside Den of Thieves, and I'm sure his fans will swoon quite easily.
Running Time: 9
The Cast: 7
Job Description: 8
The Extra Bonus Point: 0
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