As the vessel gets underway we are treated to some beautiful underwater shots with the sub looking strikingly like a whale. For Hunter the testing has already started as Ramsey verbally spars with him and imposes his authority. The scale becomes apparent as we tour around the boat eventually focusing on Hunter as he works out in the gym and jogs along the walkways - it's that big! Suddenly the contrast between Hunter and Ramsey comes into sharp focus when a fire breaks out in the galley, which Hunter attends to. The Captain decides that this is the perfect time for a missile launch drill, since confusion is at its highest, making Hunter sprint back to the control room. There is little time for conflict though since an EAM (Emergency Action Message) is soon received - the rebels have cracked the missile launch codes!
The sub is now on high alert as it moves closer to the Russian coast, the tension in such a confined space is almost solid. A mysterious blip on the sonar screen turns out to be a Russian Akula-class attack submarine, which may or may not be manned by the rebels. The launch of two torpedoes resolves the issue - the crew swing into evasive action with the calm authority of both Ramsey and Hunter at the core. During this aquatic dogfight another EAM arrives, this time with devastating news - an order to launch a nuclear payload. Further confusion occurs when the vessel is damaged during the battle, cutting off an EAM which may rescind the previous order. The conflict between Ramsey and Hunter breaks out into open warfare as the Captain seems hell-bent on launching his missiles while Hunter advises caution. Both are technically and morally right but only one of them can 'win' as the situation deteriorates into mutiny.
This is a classic example of the movie with two halves - initially the characters of Hunter and Ramsey are defined, the tension increases and the level of realism is high. Unfortunately as soon as the two officers descend into almost physical violence, in front of the crew, our belief in them as trained leaders plummets. Paying homage to 'Das Boot', 'Aliens' and 'Reservoir Dogs' the script lets the storyline float away, falling back on cliched scenes to finish the film. It's true that Washington gives a fine performance and that the initial premise is fine, but these are just not enough to save Crimson Tide. After all, you know that when the Executive Officer of a nuclear submarine starts pretending that he's Captain Kirk and waffles on about the Silver Surfer that something is seriously amiss in the reality department.