Gerard Butler is a submarine commander. Gary Oldman is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Russian President is captive because of a coup from one of his generals. Shots are fired. Shit blows up. Nothing makes sense, including the tough guy talk. Hunter Killer is a cheap holy rolling sinking ship of a mainstream action-thriller.
And that’s my review.
If you decided to keep reading, congrats to you for actually wanting to know more (though I was hoping to spare you). Note: I’m just going insert a gif after every paragraph because I’m pretty sure that it’ll be a hell a lot more entertaining than the film.
Hunter Killer features some of the worst CGI ever. The opening submarine shot, as the camera sinks below the icy waters looks like a simulation. The production design grants it no favors as the three radar technicians look like they’re sitting at an Apollo 13 command desk rather than a state of the art submarine. When the shock comes that this isn’t a simulation, we know that Hunter Killer isn’t going to wow us with its effects. Seriously, if Mission Impossible wants to win any and all craft awards at the Oscars, they should just send the Academy their skydiving scene side-by-side with Hunter Killer. The only thing we’re wowed by here is how Oldman was ever roped into this.
The film, set in the Barents Sea, centers around a sunken U.S. submarine. Enlisted to investigate the incident is first time captain Joe Glass (Gerard Butler), sent with the crew of a Hunter Killer. Glass never went to Anapolis, raising himself up by working every job on a sub. He’s a survivor of the Wichita, carrying a coin to commemorate it without giving any information of what the Wichita is or was. In Glass’s investigation, he finds that a sunken Russian sub carrying a still living captain, Sergei Andropov (Michael Nyqvist), is in the vicinity as well. Glass enlists the help of the Russian captain to solve this mystery, but not without some side-eyed “I don’t trust you glances.” In fact, the film has the audacity to reference Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with the “You know, we’re no different, you and I” line in their conversation.
To help in the investigation, a SEAL team is sent into Russia. The team is comprised of Bill (Toby Stephens), Devin (Michael Trucco), Matt (Ryan McPartlin), and Paul (Zane Holtz). None of the soldiers are given any unique characteristics. They’re caricatures of previous red asses seen in other war films. In their investigation, the NAVY Seals find that there’s a coup against Russian president, Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko). The Russian president is also given no distinctive character traits. He’s just a warm body in an otherwise cold film. Also, the Seal team and the crew of the submarine are supposed to be working together, but they have minimal contact with each other. The larger plan of how these two teams were supposed to interlock are fanciful, at best. Even in a Gerard Butler film, you’d have to be tactically brain dead to think any of it makes sense. And the moral lesson against the machismo shown in war, which could be interesting if handled with care, is nothing more than a platitude here.
Complicating matters is Common, playing Rear Admiral John Fisk, who the trailer doesn’t even introduce as an Academy Award winner. Common still hasn’t proven that he has the nuance and feeling to be an actor, sometimes holding his own. He doesn’t do so here. Hence, why the trailer was afraid to call him an Academy Award winner. His character is passive and useless, verbally abused by Charles Donnegan (Gary Oldman) and manipulated by Jayne Norquist (Linda Cardellini), an NSA agent who magically appears with no apparent superior. Oldman, for his part, is in one of the worst follow-up performances by a Best Actor winner in the history of film (I’ve done the research). To add insult to injury, the quality of his performance isn’t even in the league of a good performance in a bad film. His accent and mimicry, a quality he was lauded for in Darkest Hour, is lacking here. It’s never clear what regional dialect he’s trying to accomplish. Also, the costumes in Hunter Killer fit the minimum of minimal requirements. As Oldman’s clothes look two sizes too big for him (whenever he closed his umbrella-sized jacket, it irked me).
Hunter Killer, while featuring some amusement is dull. One would find more enjoyment watching a plastic yellow submarine sink to the bottom of a bathtub than watching this film. Excuse me, while I find a rubber ducky to match.