Reel Reviews | Hunter Killer

by Monica Hayes

Another submarine movie is about to hit the theaters. Will Donovan Marsh’s Hunter Killer blow you out of the water or will it sink to the bottom of the ocean?

Hunter Killer opens up with the USS Tampa following a Russian nuclear class sub in the icy water of the Barents Sea. All of a sudden, the sonar picks up an explosion coming from the Russian sub and then a torpedo from above hits the Tampa. This single action sets the tone of the entire movie. There are several moving parts to this movie. Try to keep up.

First, while Rear Admiral Fisk (Common) is trying to find out exactly what happened to the Tampa, he is approached by NSA Analyst, Jayne Norquist (Linda Cardellini). She informs him that just as the Tampa sunk, Zarkarin and Durov are meeting at the Fjord Base. She also informs him that the NSA has been monitoring the Russian President Zarkarin (Alexander Diachenko) and his Minister of Defense, Admiral Dmitri Durov (Michael Gor) as they have been shoring up their defenses but are calling the moves “training exercises”. Side eye. Ok, keep this in the back of your mind.

Second, as Fisk hears this info, he tells Joint Chief Charles Donnegan (Gary Oldman) that the Tampa has not made contact and feared to be down is given the authorization to send the closest sub to the area for search and rescue. The closest sub is the USS Arkansas and her Skipper, Joe Glass (Gerard Butler). Glass is given the task of going right up to the border of Russian territory, search for the downed Tampa and report back. Simple right? Not so much. Not only do they find the Tampa and its crew, but they also discover the Russian sub they were following, also down and it had four survivors. But then they themselves become targets to an unknown terror. Wait, there is more.

Third, having knowledge that the Tampa was sunk, that Zarkarin and Durov are having a secret meeting, knowing that this meeting was set in motion PRIOR to the Tampa being sunk, Donnegan gives Fisk permission to send in Beaman (Toby Stevens) and his SEAL team to recon the meeting. What they report back is mind-blowing! Durov is attempting a coup and has Zarkarin held captive. Almost there, hold on.

Finally, now pay attention. The U.S. President (Caroline Goodall) is briefed on the entire situation: Tampa being sunk by the Russians, but that answer is still unclear; the fact that the Russian navy has started to mobilize and Zarkarin and Durov’s secret meeting. Things are shaping up to be the start of WWIII. However, in the middle of a heated debate about elevating the DEFCON status and mobilizing our navy, Fisk and Jayne tell the president about Durov’s attempted coup, and that the Seal team could attempt a rescue of the Russian president and get them out on the Arkansas. The decision has been made send the Arkansas deep into Russian territory and rescue Zarkarin and thwart Durov’s attempts. Let the underwater and above ground adventures begin.

After watching the trailer, I had low expectations walking in. Thinking this is a low budget Hunt for Red October rip off with sprinkles of Crimson Tide. Hunter Killer starts with a bang – Literally! From the opening scenes to the last, the action will keep you on the edge of your seat. With so much going on at one time, I was pleasantly surprised that Hunter held its own.

Don’t misunderstand, there are obvious plot/script issues that are present in this movie. One issue worth mentioning is the lack of Russian dialogue. If the main villains in the movie are of Russian culture, all of the action is set within the Russian border and the actors cast to play them are of Russian descent, why do you not have any type of Russian dialogue? Everyone in the move spoke English. There was more Russian dialogue spoken in Red October. A major flaw that should have been caught during production. It makes the acting seem cheap, cheesy and unbelievable. Another issue is the many inconsistencies throughout the movie that should have been caught during editing. Dark turned light during several battles, injuries appear and disappear, etc. however, these can be overlooked given the circumstances.

The acting was better than expected. There is no need to comment on Oldman’s performance. He does an excellent job at damn near everything he does. Butler’s performance was better than expected. We last saw him in the natural disaster Geostorm where it seemed like he was trying too hard to be believable. Here, he stays in his lane as the cool, untested outsider Skipper who didn’t attend the academy in charge of the newest nuclear-powered sub. His even-keeled, almost arrogant tense approach to Glass worked well.

It is a must to mention that as one of Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist’s last performances, he was superb. From my introduction to him in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series to his performance as Tarasov in John Wick, his acting career has been a joy to watch. He will truly be missed. On the flip side of the accolades, we have Common. It hurts to say that it is a disappointment to watch him act on screen. With all the movies he has been in, you would think his skill level would have improved. However, he seems to have stayed the same person from Killing Aces, to Run All Night, to John Wick 2, the list goes on. He needs more in-depth acting lessons.

The action sequences are great. As I’ve mentioned before, the nods to Red October and Crimson Tide are prevalent. There are also similarities to American Sniper and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Overall, Hunter Killer is a good watch with action from the beginning to the surprise ending.

Grade B-