It is very easy to get misty-eyed and sentimental when a major Hollywood player passes away and lose perspective. Revisionist histories abound as all and sundry rush to commemorate the passing of the greatest actor/actress/writer/director/producer of his/her (delete as appropriate) generation. Having said that, the loss of director Tony Scott in what is said to have been a suicidal leap from a bridge in his adopted Los Angeles is a major tragedy. Although he was 68 years old and has left a significant body of impressive work behind him, there is still a sense of there being much still to come from him. He doesn’t belong to the “gone too soon” category populated by the likes of Heath Ledger, River Phoenix, Brittany Murphy and so forth, but his death is a great loss all the same.
Twitter is already awash with recollections of favoured films of Scott’s. In an interview with Empire Magazine some years ago he contrasted himself with his brother Ridley by stating that his Ridley’s output was directed more towards posterity, “I’m a little more rock and roll”. In so saying, he sold himself short. Yes, his films tended towards the less Oscar-baiting end of the spectrum (at least compared to Ridley’s), but amongst his CV are some of the very best and certainly some of the most entertaining films Hollywood has given us in the past 30 years. Everyone will have their favourites, some may even get out the pom-poms for Days of Thunder. To each their own. This is a time to mourn and celebrate the passing of a sensationally gifted film-maker and for what it is worth, here are Six of his Best.
6. Crimson Tide
The ratcheting tension of submarine battles has been a staple of cinema for many a decade, the literal pressure of billions of cubic feet of water ably transferring itself into the psychological pressure on the respective crews, whether in Das Boot, or lesser fare such as U-571 and The Hunt For Red October. Tony Scott worked here from a script that benefited from a Tarantino spit and polish that occasionally shows through, without over-balancing the screenplay or making it feel disjointed. Denzel Washington’s newly appointed (and more intellectually considered) Ex-O clashes with Gene Hackman’s more instinctive, hard-nosed and straight-forward Captain over confused and contradictory orders, with the resulting power-play descending eventually into mutiny.
It is an utterly thrilling film, its scenario unfolding realistically, compellingly and ultimately terrifyingly. Washington does his best noble, erudite, intelligent bit, with Hackman elevating what could have been a one-dimensional character into archetypal territory, his hard-nosed sea-dog coming to show shades of grey that in lesser hands would never have come to light. Scott deserves masses of credit for cranking up the tension at the same time as developing character beats that enable the ensuing struggle to make sense and most crucially, maintain credibility. Up there with Die Hard as an imperious example of claustrophobic dynamism and for my money, still Scott’s best work.