Hunter Killer (2018)
Hunter Killer (2018)

Genre: Thriller and War Running Time: 2 hrs. 1 min.

Release Date: October 26th, 2018 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Donovan Marsh Actors: Gerard Butler, Carter MacIntyre, Gary Oldman, Common, David Gyasi, Linda Cardellini, Toby Stephens, Zane Holtz, Alexander Diachenko, Michael Gor, Michael Nyqvist




hile tracking the Russian Federation Akula-class Konek near the Kola Peninsula, the USS Tampa Bay submarine documents an explosion aboard their target before they are suddenly hit and sunk by a torpedo. With the Pentagon desperate to learn the fate of the Tampa Bay, Admiral Fisk (Common) assigns temperate commander Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) to captain the USS Arkansas, a nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarine, to covertly travel into Russian waters to find out the truth. Once there, the Arkansas is quickly attacked by another Akula-class vessel, forcing the Americans to destroy it in the ensuing battle.

Back in the United States, Fisk is informed by NSA liaison Jayne Norquist (Linda Cardellini) that Russia’s President Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko) is traveling to the Polyarny military complex in the Kola Bay, a coincidence too suspicious to ignore. As Fisk orders an elite team of operatives, headed by Bill Beaman (Toby Stephens), to run surveillance on the ground at Polyarny, Glass decides to break protocol and rescue the surviving Russian sailors from the Konek. When Glass uncovers a massive conspiracy, the American must work together with the Konek’s Captain Andropov (Michael Nyqvist) to prevent a full-scale war.

“It’s not a time to pussy around.” Gary Oldman’s first line isn’t appropriately indicative of the surprisingly dependable excitement to come, though his involvement is not only extremely limited (he’s not really worth mentioning in a synopsis), but it’s also reserved almost exclusively for generic argumentativeness during political maneuvering. A cat-and-mouse game with submarines, “Hunter Killer” features some breathtaking scenery when the action is above the surface, as well as plenty of action once a face-off is instigated between nuclear powers.

Butler is also tasked with barking formulaic orders and loosing motivational speeches, but the sense of adventure and the complications of escalating encounters nicely balance the moments that are overly expected. Chatter about the inexperienced leader are put to rest once torpedoes are unleashed and tactical successes begin to accrue. Amusingly, the film isn’t set solely in the claustrophobic confines of the deep; a secondary storyline involves special forces deployed (via a skydive) in reconnaissance, infiltration, and rescue missions on land, which wield their own sequences of high-octane fury. Lots of gunfire and last-minute escapes make “Hunter Killer” much more of a multifaceted war movie than audiences might anticipate.

The weakest link might be the feuding military factions back on U.S. soil, where the NSA and the Department of Defense bicker over game plans. The President even gets involved, and here the commander in chief is a woman; in the fictional universe of “Hunter Killer,” superpowers are on the brink of World War III, but at least it’s progressive enough to have a female president. Fortunately, even when Oldman returns for some additional shouted lines, the bulk of the supporting roles takes everything seriously; there are no misguided injections of comic relief.

Between the acoustic mines, sound sensors, a flooded torpedo room, destroyer mortars, and all the mental-armor-piercing stare-downs, there’s a significant amount of entertainment to be found in the premise, which is unique and unusual. It’s commendable that the filmmakers behind “Hunter Killer” have embraced a story that finds U.S. and Russian forces working together to prevent greater political chaos, especially since the picture is set in present day – and the real present day is a climate of aggression and conflict. Fascinatingly, the issue of loyalty plays a major role, weighing the importance of allegiance to individuals rather than governments. “There aren’t too many training simulations for this one.”

Another meritorious aspect is the cinematography, which takes its time with long shots with few cuts. Precision and careful editing amplifies the tension; visually, it’s the opposite of the frenetic camerawork seen in the works of Paul Greengrass, Antoine Fuqua, Peter Berg, and Michael Bay. It’s never difficult to decipher what is going on in each scene. Ultimately, “Hunter Killer” may be pure fantasy, but it’s smartly paced, unexpectedly complex, action-packed, and thoroughly satisfying.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10