Hunter Killer

 

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This Cold War thriller could not be more timely but is too higgledy-piggledy to activate our adrenalin levels.

  

Hunter Killer

All at sea: David Gyasi, Gerard Butler and Michael Nyqvist

 

Hunter-killer is the name given to a type of ‘attack submarine,’ used both by the Russian and American navies. Equally, it could suffice as the title of a dumb action movie starring Gerard Butler. As it happens, this Cold War thriller arrives at a frighteningly opportune moment, particularly as Nato has expressed alarm at Russia’s burgeoning submarine capability. Only last week, the US Navy revealed plans to boost its spending by $21 billion a year, or $631 billion over 30 years. But Don Keith and George Wallace's novel Firing Point was actually published in 2012, long before the recent strong-arm tactics of the Russian military intelligence, the GRU.

 

The scenario posited by Donovan Marsh’s adaptation is a nuclear showdown looming between Russia and the US, just as the doves and hawks on both sides exhibit their true colours. In the firing line is Gerard Butler’s Joe Glass, commander of the USS Arkansas, who’s dragged from the Scottish Highlands to take control of the sub to investigate the disappearance of another US vessel in Russian waters. It is there that he not only discovers the remains of the American craft but a crippled Russian submarine that has clearly been sabotaged from within. And as the political rhetoric heats up on both sides of the Atlantic, Glass and his crew rescue the Russian captain and two of his men before finding themselves the prey of a Russian warship. It transpires that only Glass’s cool head can prevent an escalation of World War Three…

 

Aiming for a docu-drama realism, Donovan Marsh lacks the finesse of a Paul Greengrass or Ridley Scott to make the events feel truly immediate. Furthermore, much of the first 45 minutes is thoroughly confusing, not helped by the poor enunciation of the actors (a large number of whom are British, grappling with American accents). Moreover, there’s no single character we can root for, resulting in an indistinct array of pawns representing both sides of the conflict. Other aquatic escapades – The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Titanic (1997) – at least had characters we could care about, however hammy their representation. There are some intelligent casting choices here – Caroline Goodall as the US President, the late Michael Nyqvist as a ‘good’ Russian – and some unfortunate ones. As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gary Oldman gives a manic turn as a war-mongering Yank, while his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Gorevoy, looks like he’s escaped from a direct-to-video Steven Seagal release. As the nominal hero, Gerard Butler (who’s also credited as producer) has little to do other than look tall. The film’s final third does gain some dramatic traction, particularly during a cuticle-chewing sequence in which the Arkansas navigates a heavily mined stretch of ocean bed. But this is no Das Boot nor Crimson Tide, and in spite of the meaty premise of good men seeing beyond the bellicose agenda of their superiors, the film suffers from a lack of human involvement.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common, Michael Nyqvist, Linda Cardellini, David Gyasi, Gabriel Chavarria, Ryan McPartlin, Carter MacIntyre, Zane Holtz, Taylor John Smith, Michael Gor, Alexander Diachenko, Caroline Goodall, Toby Stephens, Sarah Middleton, Henry Goodman, Colin Stinton, Will Attenborough, David Yelland.

 

Dir Donovan Marsh, Pro Toby Jaffe, Neal H. Moritz, Gerard Butler, Tucker Tooley, Alan Siegel and Mark Gill, Screenplay Arne Schmidt and Jamie Moss, Ph Tom Marais, Pro Des Jon Henson and James H. Spencer, Ed Michael J. Duthie, Music Trevor Morris, Costumes Caroline Harris.

 

Original Film/Millennium Films/G-BASE-Lionsgate.

121 mins. UK/USA/China. 2018. Rel: 19 October 2018. Cert. 15.