3/4 stars ★★★☆
Hunter Killer is a highly entertaining military thriller starring a US nuclear-powered attack submarine, with Gerard Butler in a supporting role as its clenched-jawed, maverick commander. Featuring much underwater badassery, as well as black ops on land and scenes of Gary Oldman yelling, the movie shows you what could happen when a lethal, 7,000-ton tube deep in the Arctic Ocean is tasked with averting WWIII.
The B-movie plot is way over the top, and involves a coup d’état against the Russian president by a rogue general who for some reason wants to trigger a war with the US. Commander Joe Glass of the fictional USS Arkansas takes radical action to prevent such a stupid conflagration – helped by a cheesy team of Navy SEALS who parachute onto the Kola Peninsula and literally rescue the deposed Russian head of state.
The dialogue is entirely forgettable, there is no character development, and the plot has more holes than a leaky deep-diving craft. The movie is also comically earnest; I detected one attempt at a joke, which fell flat. Having said that, the fast-moving action and sheer awesomeness of the advanced military hardware on display kept me fully engaged. The cinematography and production design are excellent and you really get to experience life on board a submarine.
The movie has a quaint 1980s vibe to it, like a Jane Fonda workout video. Filmed in the summer of 2016, Hunter Killer feels like it was lifted out of the Cold War years, hearkening back to a simpler time when superpower conflict was still a thing. From a propaganda standpoint, the movie is excellent PR for the US Navy, and I am not being snide when I say that it’s hard to imagine a stronger argument for wanting to stuff yourself into a deadly submersible cylinder and blow sh*t up.
It’s also a feel-good story, in which brave Americans and Russians work together to take down the bad guys and restore peace on earth. I was curious to know what Russian audiences would think of it, but it appears Russia’s Ministry of Culture has not yet approved the film for cinemas. However, I did find this rather negative review on a Russian news site. Sample courtesy of Google Translate:
But everyone has forgotten about the “Red Sparrow” with Jennifer Lawrence in the role of a Soviet spy, as another American director shot an even more outspoken “cranberry”. Before the premiere of the film “The Hunter-Killer” remnants of a few days, and Western film critics are already wondering how this can be removed altogether.
Good president and bad minister
“The killer hunter” is a nonstandard “cranberry,” at least the director at least tried to make the film not look like that. That is why he portrayed the Russian president Zakharin as a mild liberal of the Gorbachev era. A scapegoat made insidious Minister of Defense Durov, who just personifies the canonical Soviet “villain.” “Occurs when he was, but without a hard reactionary official“ cranberries ”would be incomplete. […]
The film is punctuated with scenes of battles using modern military technology. There are missile defense systems, submarines and tankers. This is a tribute to the creators of “Fast and the Furious” technically savvy viewers.
Cranberries? Apparently, the terms refers to Western stereotypes of Russia. According to a blogger:
The term ‘klyukvification‘* mentioned in the headline is formed from the word ‘klyukva’  (i.e. cranberry in Russian) + ‘fication‘ (as in mystification). As I wrote in my post:
This word is often used in Russia in a non-literal meaning to describe foreign (negative) stereotypes concerning Russia and Russians or some specific Russian cultural products (films, books, music videos, etc.) which are ‘klyukved’ on purpose by their creators in order to be appreciated by the Western media and public.
And here is a pictorial example of what he calls “high-concentration klyukva”:
Western stereotypes of Russia
My feeling is that the Russians in Hunter Killer are more stock action-movie characters than stereotypical Russians. And there are no bears or matryoshka dolls to be seen.
PS – This is hilarious:
Saw it at a whim while passing a cinema and had a few hours to kill.
Was it directed by Michael Bay? Or the Fast and Furious guys? Why were all the Russians speaking English? Why was the camera spinning around Admiral Dude and Gary Oldman while they were having a normal conversation? Why was Captain Gerald Butler so bizarrely dramatic in a speech immediately upon getting on board? Also, did he actually do anything in the movie besides listen to various Russian dudes?
Also also, at the start, he was in Scotland hunting, then in Scotland at a US Navy Base, then his XO asked if he had a good trip from Portsmouth, which is in England? Am I getting that all right?
But yeah, it was dumb… but fine. 3 stars.
PPS – What’s with all the British actors playing Americans these days? The Scottish Gerard Butler as a US Navy submarine commander, English Gary Oldman as a US Navy admiral, English Toby Stephens as a US Navy SEAL commander… they do a great job with accents, so I can’t complain. It’s just interesting.