Review: Hunter Killer
Hunter Killer is a film seemingly made in a bubble — or, uhh, submarine. You could mistake its premise for one plucked from the ‘90s, where political action-thrillers like this thrived. Its naivety feels out of place in 2018, though. What it says, or doesn’t say, about the world today shouldn’t take away from the fact that it manages to become a serviceable, entertaining submarine action film. And despite a convoluted plot, it begs the question, why don’t we have more modern day films in this sub-genre? Maybe the answer to that question lies in just how dated submarine warfare is, which Hunter Killer proves.
There are at least four main plotlines running through the film, much to the detriment of the viewer. In the main throughline, Commander Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) takes his submarine crew down to investigate an apparent attack on a U.S. sub by the Russians. He quickly discovers the attack is a setup, which catches the attention of Washington D.C and Rear Admiral John Fisk (Common), who coordinates a Navy SEAL team to infiltrate Russia to get answers, led by Lieutenant Bill Beaman (Toby Stephens). Plus you have the Russian President (Alexander Diachenko) taken hostage by his leading military general in a coup attempt, which triggers all of these plotlines to converge in a rescue operation to save him.
Gary Oldman has a glorified, useless cameo as a screaming Admiral for a handful of scenes. Linda Cardellini is also wasted as an NSA analyst who assists in only delivering much-needed exposition to piece things together. The film is filled with recognizable character actors lining the edges, its most notable one is Michael Nyqvist. The late actor plays a Russian submarine captain who ends up aiding Commander Glass and the Americans’ mission. It’s a small role, but one that will stand as a testament to Nyqvist’s screen presence.
It all seems too familiar, but there are genuine thrills to be had once the action builds at the midway point. The American sub makes its way through a Russian sea minefield in the film’s best sequence. And once the Navy Seal team makes their move to rescue the Russian president, there are a few decent moments of suspense amongst the shootouts.
Awkward and predictable lines bog down scenes that could’ve packed more of an emotional punch. Gerard Butler has to deliver these lines with a straight face and mostly succeeds. In a growing line of passable Butler-starring, action fare, Hunter Killer fits pretty well into the canon.
For all the good that it does, Hunter Killer’s biggest sin is in how it’s defiant in its political deafness. Yes, the moral of the story is that we can all work together, Russians and Americans, in order to stop the bad guys! Perhaps the most telling aspect is the casting of a Hillary Clinton look-alike to play the President of the United States, placing it in an alternate universe where bright-eyed optimism is still all the rage. Maybe it’s a lot to ask to want more bite in a film that centers around a potential world war between two countries that are currently on the verge of one. If you can forget about what real-world atrocities the Russians have commited and just how easy it is to accept a Navy SEAL team to be the all-righteous world police, then you might have a damn good time at the movies with Hunter Killer. Even with the weight of the real world on it, the film still manages to deliver the action goods, though, so maybe that’s just enough?