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|In the depths of the ocean, fleets of
submarines travel silently for months on end. Each
submarine carries with it the means to nuclear
armagadden. Each vessel is the greatest weapon that the
Cold War has ever produced. In the movie Gene Hackman
plays the skipper of one US nuclear class submarine. His
number 1 or second in command is played by Denzel
Washington. The mission of this vessel is to speed toward
the icey cold waters of Siberia toward a terrorist
nuclear threat. In Russia a madman has occupied a nuclear
silo base and threatens to start World War III.
As the American vessel travels forward with stealth in the murky waters of the ocean depth it encounters resistance and troubles of all sort. A Russian submarine nearly sinks the sub with a torpedo. But with a quick release of depth charges, and rapid maneuvering the ship survives. But it has sustained damage, primarily in its propulsion system. The vessel approaches crush depth, deep in the ocean as it descends with no means to move. Power goes out and everyone waits for what they feel is certain death. But the second in command of the ship keeps his cool. Denzel Washington rallies his men, and power is restored at "warpspeed."
A communique is sent from headquarters to the sub. The message states to arm the ships nuclear missiles and fire them. As the ship prepares for fire protocol procedures, another commmunique is received. But the message is cut off due to a damged antenna, and only part of the message is received. The ship's captain wishes to fire the missiles now, and carry out the last known order. The ships second in command wishes to find out the contents of the second priority message before doing this.
A coup for command of the ship is lead by the ships second in command. The captain is confined to quarters. But just moments after this the captain's trusted men begin to organize and quickly reclaim the ship.The captain now prepares to launch the ships missiles. But in order for missiles to be fired both he and his second in command must concur on the orders received and agree to fire the missiles. Denzel refuses, and no amount of physical persuasion seems to change his mind. An attempt is made to relieve the second in command of his position, but a high ranking bridge officer believes it is not a lawful order so this never does happen.
Ultimately the movie ends with the sub's antenna being repaired and the last bit of the cut off message being received. The message states that the situation in Russia has been resolved and that no missiles are to be fired. As the movie ends, it lives a question of military protocol. Who was right, the captain, or the second in command? In the end they both were right, and that is the real problem as the navy's admiral states. Just how easily can military protocol lead two different men to two different conclusions with two frightengly different outcomes? This leaves much for one to ponder in the nuclear age.
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