By: Aidan Clarke, Staff Writer
When I went to see “Hunter Killer” I expected to be disappointed. There was the potential for a good movie here, but everything pointed to it being a failure. This movie had languished in production for years, and it did not have a large budget.
My friend, with uncharacteristic optimism, insisted we leave early when headed to the opening. “It might sell out,” he warned. It did not. Walking in to the silence of a nearly empty theater, I was filled with the fear of being disappointed that my 10 dollars would be wasted, but more importantly, that the undeniably intriguing premise of “Hunter Killer” would be squandered on a bad film.However, I have to admit that when I left I was pleasantly surprised.
“Hunter Killer” is not subtle, refined or elegant in any way. If “The Godfather” is the movie equivalent of a master painters brush, “Hunter Killer” is nothing more than a hammer; but hammers certainly have their uses. What “Hunter Killer” lacks in plot complexity, it more than makes up for in entertainment value.
South African director Donovan Marsh does an excellent job of mixing thrilling action sequences with extended moments of suspense and intrigue. It is clear that he has done his research, as the film features multiple scenes that make the most of the unique dangers and fears that all submariners must face. While perhaps lacking the exhilaration of a dogfight between dueling jets, submarines — with their cramped quarters, need for absolute silence and the constant threat of hundreds of tons of water on all sides —create a primordial suspense that Marsh exploits brilliantly.
Some of the best moments of the movie were delivered from a group of Navy SEALs sent behind enemy lines. The SEALs are played extremely well, and often deliver timely humor and action during lulls as the film progresses. In fact, most of their scenes prove to be far more memorable than some of the major plot points.
“Hunter Killer” checks all the action movie boxes, with stunning action sequences, (and gratuitous explosions) as well as clearly thought out moments of intrigue on the political and individual level. If it does have a broader message, “Hunter Killer” seems to implore trust from its audience. In that way, it is a movie for the past, far better suited for the moments of “trust but verify” as the Cold War came to its quiet end.
A downfall, however, was that Gerard Butler puts on a rather disappointing performance. Commander Joe Glass should be an unorthodox and relatable character, but Butler’s wooden, detached acting makes Glass seem more machine than man. Very few characters in the movie stood out giving the sense that they were well written, but poorly executed. Linda Cardellini, Gary Oldman and Common, could perhaps stood to have gained from increased screen time, but they too did not impress in any significant way.
So why did I like “Hunter Killer?” After all, this has hardly been a glowing review, and most film critics have absolutely despised this movie. However, there is something simple and enjoyable
about “Hunter Killer.” My enjoyment of it reminded me of an episode of the British show “Top Gear,” when host Jeremy Clarkson had to explain his preference for an inferior car. Clarkson said “This is brilliant” as he pointed to the superior car, “but I like this.” Clarkson’s point was that no matter how much worse his car was, it was fun, it made him happy. “Hunter Killer” is a movie that is riven with problems, but it is seriously enjoyable, and it makes you happy. Sometimes entertainment is all you need from a movie, and in that regard, “Hunter Killer” is a success.