“… It’s hard to like movies like Hunter Killer when they try so hard to be hated.”
Yesterday I saw Hunter Killer, the new Gerard Butler movie about being in a submarine, and I liked it quite a bit. The movie follows an American submarine crew who are sent to look for a different submarine crew who went missing. On their journey they end up in Russian waters and almost start a war. So y’know, fun times all around. The movie stars a lot of people who are way better than this script including Gary Oldman and Linda Cardellini, but I’ll get into that later.
Like I said I really enjoyed Hunter Killer. Going into the movie I doubted any and all claims that it could be intense or measure up to any other action movie released simply due to the fact that the entire thing (or so I thought) takes place in a submarine. There’s only so much you can do in a single space, and when referring to action movies that list of possibilities narrows dramatically. Luckily Hunter Killer was able to prove me wrong by offering up very intense scenes despite the location being limited.
The action scenes in Hunter Killer that take place inside the submarine really sell the intensity that is felt by the characters in that situation, which is something that I didn’t think the movie could pull off. Despite the setting being so far removed from reality as compared to other movies Hunter Killer truly sold the reality of the situation and immersed (pun most definitely intended) me into the story and the situations that were unfolding onscreen.
This wasn’t an easy fight for Hunter Killer however, as a lot of the movie was working against me enjoying it. First of all authenticity was a huge focus for Hunter Killer, so much so that the director decided that he wanted to put the audience in the action; in real war scenarios. So what can you do in a situation like that? Rent a bunch of warships? Are you fucking crazy? No, just use military footage in an extended montage and turn Hunter Killer, an intense movie about time spent on a submarine into what can only be described as the worst documentary ever. This segment felt so out of place not only due to subject, but also the look. It’s jarring to go from pretty, polished Hollywood war to grainy footage shot from a helicopter by the U.S. Army. There were also weird choices like strapping GoPros to actors to further ‘immerse’ the audience into a scenario, but I feel that I don’t need to point out why that’s annoying.
But really the biggest hurdle Hunter Killer put up was the story. I went into Hunter Killer assuming it was a movie about the crew of a submarine dealing with the threat of war. This is interesting becasue when you’re in a submarine you’re kind of cut off from the rest of the world, leading to a really interesting narrative wherein this crew is facing odds the likes of which cannot be comprehended by them at the time. This was part of the movie but Hunter Killer also decided to throw in two other stories into this two hour movie, making it a terribly bloated mess by the end. Now one of these two stories, the story of a group of soldiers on the ground in Russia, was fine. I wouldn’t have included it in Hunter Killer simply becasue I felt it took away from the story people came to see, but I certainly didn’t hate it. The other story however, the one that constantly has to be included in any action movie that is released today, sucked. That was the bureaucratic storyline.
When I go to see an action movie I want to be met with intense scenes and scenarios that are action-packed. I don’t give a FUCK about Gary Oldman screaming in a boardroom. Seriously, who the fuck cares? It’s never enjoyable. All it does is add context, but sometimes a story can speak for itself. Hunter Killer would have been more than fine if you cut out all of the bullshit that took place on land. Not only would it have been a tighter story, it probably would have been better received by audiences.
Overall Hunter Killer was brilliant, at least compared to my initial expectations. It managed to be unique and intense, offering a story that played into action movie clichés while still forging its own path. Unfortunately the movie is constantly torpedoed (I’m hilarious) by its own hubris assuming that people give a shit about the entire story and not just the one that they payed to see. It’s hard to like movies like Hunter Killer when they try so hard to be hated.
I give Hunter Killer a B