“HUNTER KILLER” FLOATS THRILLS; “NEW AMSTERDAM” ON TV
A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley
HUNTER KILLER (Rated R) Noting that the producers of “Olympus Has Fallen” are behind the Gerard Butler post-Cold War military thriller “Hunter Killer” comes as no surprise. Once again, the leading man is tossed into a dangerous rescue attempt. Gerard Butler, who’s also one of the many producers, is a natural fit for the action hero on a mission to save a world leader. His Captain Joe Glass is the new commander of the USS Arkansas ordered to find a missing submarine in the Arctic Circle.
The source material for this thriller comes from the novel “Firing Point,” written by George Wallace, the retired commander of the nuclear submarine the USS Houston, along with award-winning journalist and best-selling author Don Keith. The book’s action-packed plot, based on Wallace’s extensive knowledge, twisted and turned through a Russian nationalist coup, Black Ops Navy SEAL mission and an attack submarine captain faced with decisions that could ignite another World War.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the plot sounds like it was ripped from the pages of a Tom Clancy novel. In any event, it is loaded with thrills that should work for an entertaining diversion even if many critics scoff at the whole enterprise. Following the script of Wallace’s novel, “Hunter Killer,” which refers to a special type of naval vessel designed to approach the enemy without detection, involves the necessity of the Americans stepping in to thwart a military overthrow of a foreign government.
In the process of locating the missing US sub close to a Russian naval port, Glass gets word from Washington, by way of Gary Oldman’s grizzled Admiral Charles Donnegan, that a rogue Russian general has kidnapped his country’s president (Alexander Diachenko) in a brazen coup. Teaming up with Navy SEALs on the ground, Glass, much to the consternation of his dubious crew, makes common cause with the Russian sub Captain Andropov (Michael Nyqvist) that he rescues from a sunken vessel.
As it turns out, without the Russian captain’s help to navigate the treacherous entry, booby-trapped with mines and sonar devices, to the Russian naval base of Polyarny, Glass and his crew wouldn’t come close to surviving the journey. The traitorous Russian Admiral Durov (Michael Gor), serving as the defense minister, obviously seems keen on igniting a military conflict with the United States while using the absence of the Russian president to justify his reckless offensive.
Meanwhile, the action gets really tense with the quartet of Navy SEALs penetrating the Polyarny camp to liberate the president in a hail of gunfire from the Russian soldiers either loyal to or duped by Durov. Much of the action, though, takes place in the confined space of the submarine, which not only allows the stoic Captain Glass to command his vessel with a determined rebellious streak but touches upon the conventional but suspenseful tropes of underwater danger. Fitting for edge-of-the-seat thrills, “Hunter Killer,” coming off more like a throwback to the last century’s geopolitical struggles than a contemporary thriller, is surprisingly gripping action drama that can be fun.