The Russians take up the mantle of America's nemesis in Hunter Killer. Starring Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, and Common, this geopolitical military action flick centers around a submarine gone missing.
Captain Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) is put in charge of the USS Arkansas. Rising through the ranks from the bottom up, he's unlike most other commanders - he hasn't attended the Naval Academy at Annapolis, like most officers do. He's sent in to investigate the disappearance of an American submarine that was following a Russian submarine. The tension comes from the mystery surrounding what happened and what Russia's intentions are. Further complicating the issue is the Russian minister of defense, who staged a coup to overthrow the Russian president.
The interplay between politics and military conflict play out for the rest of story. Though the movie does suffer from a slump in the middle, it mostly does a good job of keeping equal measures of intrigue and action. What's interesting is that viewers are brought into different theaters of war, which is rather refreshing. Those who aren't so enamored with the tight confines of a submarine or the slow, tense nature of naval warfare will still be entertained. That's thanks to the thread in the story where covert land warfare is waged by a squad of Navy SEALs. The movie also makes the strategy of naval warfare accessible to average viewers. Battles are tense as a result. Solid cinematography and visual effects round off the experience.
The military action is driven by geopolitical intrigue. In genres like this, it's rare that the acting is remarkable, and this film is no different. Butler's performance as Captain Glass is perfectly serviceable. At first glance, he's merely playing the kind of character he has often played: the gruff outsider who possesses dangerous intelligence and has trouble fitting in. Audiences have seen this performance in movies like Law Abiding Citizen and Geostorm. Here though, Butler dials down the action-hero swagger and plays his character with appropriate gravity. The talents of Gary Oldman, who plays Admiral Donnegan, are wasted though.
Hunter Killer isn't especially clever, but it's certainly very entertaining. It's not the kind of movie that aspires to be anything more than it is, and it succeeds because of that. The movie manages to satisfy those who enjoy military action. Some viewers might prefer to watch tense submarine warfare. Others might prefer watching special operators engaging in covert land combat. Either way, the movie delivers.