“Hunter Killer”: A Sub Thriller That Gets Only Half Way There

A good submarine thriller should be claustrophobic (Das Boot) or operatic (The Hunt for Red October). The best should be both (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). Hunter Killer is an operatic submarine movie that doesn’t have time for claustrophobia because it is too busy being globally relevant .

According to the evil mad men theory of cinematic villainy, whenever a submarine goes out to sea without nuclear missiles the movie is about preventing nuclear war rather than starting it. Since missiles and torpedoes must be launched the evil empire, usually Russian, must do the launching, leaving the cunning but stoic American submarine commander to be the diplomat, thwarter of nefarious plots, dodger of torpedoes and ocean mines, and adept navigator of narrow ocean spaces. The balance of the movie must have the unsung American hero establish rapport with the good enemy combatant while selectively obeying and disobeying direct orders until the higher ups can see the big picture wisdom.

Gerard Butler fulfills his stoic but wise commander role with enough facial twitches and subtle eye rolls to establish his superior wisdom and tactical battle smarts.

The preposterous plot has navy seals saving a kidnapped Russian president from rogue generals itching for World War III.

Hunter Killer has something for everyone: Trumpites (America colluding with friendly Russians to save the world), Clinton supporters (a blonde female president that is a Hilary proxy) and those on the Mueller investigation. Its subtext leaves no political demographic untouched.

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