Directed by: Donovan Marsh
Screenplay by: Arne L. Schmidt and Jamie Moss
Based on: The Novel “Firing Point” written by George Wallace and Don Keith
Produced by: Neal H. Moritz and Toby Jaffe, Gerard Butler, Alan Siegel, Tucker Tooley, Mark Gill, John Thompson, Matt O’Toole, Les Weldon
Starring: Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common, Linda Cardellini, Michael Nyqvist and Toby Stephens.
HUNTER KILLER ( hən(t)ərˈkilər ): a naval vessel, especially a submarine, equipped to locate and destroy enemy vessels, especially other submarines.
Based on the book, “Firing Point” written by retired commander of the nuclear attack submarine, USS Houston, George Wallace and award-winning journalist, Don Keith, Hunter Killer has action above and below the water.
Russian and American submarines play cat and mouse under the heaving Barents Sea – the Americans ghosting a Russian sub when they watch it being blown to pieces.
The cold war may have ceased above ground, but below the surface of the ocean, torpedoes are incoming.
When the American sub goes off-radar, the brass above ground, trigger-happy Admiral Charles Donnegan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Gary Oldman) and the more cautious Rear Admiral John Fisk (Common) along with senior National Security Agency analyst Jayne Norquist (Linda Cardellini), send the only Hunter Killer they have nearby, the USS Arkansas: enter ‘pride runs deep’ Captain Joe Glass (Gerard Butler).
When the USS Arkansas crew discover they’ve just sailed into a coup with Russian President Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko) held captive by Admiral Dmitri Durov (Michael Gor) gone rogue, it’s a high-stakes play to extract the president from Russian soil without starting WWIII.
Riding the helm, director, Donovan Marsh (iNumber, Number (2017)) uses three threads to tell the story: the convert battle from the sub, the Black Ops team on the ground and the tension in the War Room; a successful technique condensing a complicated military novel into a comprehensive film.
Yet unable to resist that action military cheese that dominates this genre, the screenwriters throw in lines like, ‘We’re not enemies, we’re brothers’, from Glass.
And you can just see it, the Gary Oldman character Admiral Charles Donnegan stating, ‘When someone makes a move on a chessboard, you respond.’
So, there’s that.
And the shifting of the Russians speaking their native language to then speak English, to each other when really, they’d be speaking Russian, constantly jolted me out of that suspension of reality.
Sticking to Russian with English subtitles would have given the film more authenticity and impact. A shame because there’s so much effort with the detail of the sub, Marsh placing the film’s entire submarine set on a massive hydraulic gimbal to forge realistic movement. And the U.S. Navy contributing and advising through-out to get the details as close to the real deal as possible. To have all that effect taken away by a few pieces of dialogue was disappointing.
Aside from the brothers-in-arms rhetoric, Gerard Butler brings it in a role more subdued, yet quietly still the man of action Captain. And Michael Nyqvist as the Russian counter-part, Captain Andropov, added to the tone of brave men making life and death decisions.
Rest In Peace Michael Nyqvist who passed away in June 2017.
And wow, the action and suspense really ramps-up as the story of the film builds.
Overall, not the best I’ve seen in the genre but the suspense and action make Hunter Killer worth a watch.
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