Top critical review
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Review from a REAL Submariner
on June 16, 2006
I gave this movie 3 stars because ultimately, I was entertained. The acting (for the most part) was outstanding, and the tension that was created could be cut with a Knife.
That being said, Let me put some peoples mind at ease, and relate some of the inaccuracies of the movie.
1. No Animals on Board. Period. Lose the Dog and the Fish Tank. An aquarium would be a terrible missile hazzard, and a dog crapping and pissing onboard, not a chance.
2. The supply officer (James Gandolfini) would never be allowed near control. Nor would he have the ability to force a seaman or petty officer to do push ups onboard a bus. The Supply Officer is a "restricted" officer, which means they can not participate in "command" of the vessel. The "Chop" would simply be in charge of the ships stores and the galley, nothing else.
3. There is no countermanding a launch command. Period. If the CIC (The Prez) issues a launch, the birds are flown. All the fail-safe measures (authenticating the flash traffic) are pretty much spot on, yet when word comes down to launch, you launch. The Navy asks it's young submariners to be prepared to do the unthinkable, and are trained as such. As long as there exists the slight possibility that a valid order may be later recinded, you take away the confidence of the crew in it's orders. The safe guards regarding authorization and two person concurrance is designed to prevent a single officer from launching weapons.
However, once a properly formatted, and authentic order is received, it is expected that it will be carried out. To do otherwise would always give crew members a moment of pause, wondering when the order to stand down would occur. This hesitation can not exist. Thus once the birds are ordered to fly, they will fly, as certain as if the president had pulled the trigger himself.
4. While some submariners have been on the heavy side, the number of obese people seen on the boat is not consistant with a real crew. And I have never seen ANYONE as obese as the COB was in this movie.
5. There are no secret "crawl spaces" in which people can move around in. The boat is not that big. Thus, Hunter and crew would have had to navigate actual passageways to get to control, and would have run into whatever guards were stationed.
6. The "submarine" diving in the exterior shots was not a trident ballistic missile boat, but rather a Los Angeles Class attack boat out of Hawaii. I was in Pearl Harbor when the filming took place, and Pearl is strictly a Fast Attack sub base, with Tridents only coming once in awhile for a stop over after the end of a patrol. The boat shown in the dive footage was actually an LA attack boat, and not a boomer.
7. While boat commanders frequently run multiple casualty drills, there would never be a "weapons drill" run just after a potentially fatal fire. The boat commander is ultimately responsible for the boat, crew, and it's payload. No commander would brush off such a large conflageration and "run a drill" until the fire had been fully extinguished and the reflash watch reported no possibility of reflash existed.
8. Enlisted Submariners by nature are picked for their maturity and intelligence. Submariners, especially Nuclear Trained, are encouraged to "question" orders. The safety of the boat and the crew depends on each person being able to accurately determine if an order given is "lawful". The "boys" on board Alabama showed none of those traits. The fact that the "chop" could bully his way into the Captain's Quarters by simply yelling is a testament to the poor opinion the film makers had of enlisted men.
In a "real" boat, the "chop" would have been staring down the barrel of a .45 caliber handgun, and would have been wrestled to the deck while a "security violation" was reported over the ship and "away the security alert team" was sounded. Security on board a sub is so crucial, that there is a story in which a seaman actually ordered Admiral Rickover to kiss the deck face down because the admiral while wearing full dress whites, refused to show the deck watch his military ID. He was spot promoted to Petty Officer by Rickover himself.
So while my Sailor side has issues with all the inaccuracies and fairly poor treatment the military gets with this movie, I do find the movie suspensful, entertaining, and sometimes too close to comfort (the flooding sequence is a nightmare all sailors share)
So kudos to the film makers for making a slick, taunt, thriller, but thankfully, that would and could NEVER happen.