Movie review: Hunter killer

October 31, 2018

GERARD Butler has rescued the U.S. president before in “Olympus Has Fallen” (2013) and “London Has Fallen” (2015). He now gets the chance to save the Russian president (a moderate and not someone like real life Russian Pres. Putin), who is kidnapped by a rogue general who aims to make it appear like it’s America who did it, to start a world war in “Hunter Killer”, a modern day Cold War thriller based on the novel, “Firing Point”, by George Wallace and Don Keith.

It becomes the responsibility of Butler as Commander Joe Glass to attempt a risky rescue mission with his Hunter Killer class submarine, the USS Arkansas, from which the movie got its title. He must then assemble an elite group U.S. Navy Seals to start the rescue operation in the Arctic Ocean no less.

If the material looks familiar, it’s because it echoes similar submarine-military thrillers like “The Hunt for Red October” and “Crimson Tide”. The big difference here is that the current U.S. president happens to be a woman, so you know it must be happening in an alternate universe. It turns out that the Russian submarine is a victim of sabotage, with a fanatical defense minister (Mikhail Gorevoy) taking the Russian President Zakarin (Alexander Dyachenko) as prisoner and threatening to unleash a series of attacks against America.

Back in the U.S., the trigger-happy Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Charles Donnegan (Gary Oldman in his first major role after winning the Oscar for “Darkest Hour”) advises the U.S. president (Caroline Goodall, who looks like Hillary) to use military force right away. But Rear Admiral John Fisk (rapper Common), disagrees and urges them to ask the help of Butler to save the Russian prez.

He is supported in this regard by a National Security operative (Linda Cardellini). Assisting Butler is a group of Black Op commandos led by Bill Beaman (Brit actor Toby Stephens, the son of Maggie Smith) and a rescued and war-weary Russian submarine commander, Andropov (Michael Nyqvist, the Swedish actor who starred in the original “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and died of lung cancer, this is his last movie), who shares mutual respect with Butler.

The action flits between the action on the surface in the American war room in Washington D.C., the guerrilla warfare on land (with Stephens convincing as a Special Forces badass), and the undersea happenings in the Hunter Killer submarine. Director Donovan Marsh (“Spud”) succeeds in creating an impressively realistic submarine environs. The action scenes, including the underwater ones, are efficiently executed. The tension manages to escalate through the high stakes, making the movie a fairly believable depiction of a potentially calamitous international incident that forces various agencies to work together in a race against time to save the day, and the world.  

Those who are used to seeing Butler portray gung ho, macho action heroes (just like in his last film, “Den of Thieves”) will be surprised that he’s very toned down here as a lone wolf who lets Stephens and his squad do all the over-the-top physical action stuff. But he does his job well as the no-nonsense submarine leader who has to defy all impossible obstacles and even his superiors in his efforts to save the kidnapped Russian prez.  All in all, it’s a solid and suspenseful cloak-and-dagger thriller that will please fans of the action genre.