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A Glimpse Of Hell

review by Chad Peter



Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 85 minutes

Starring: Robert Sean Leonard, James Caan, Daniel Roebuck

Written by: David Freed
Based on the book by: Charles C. Thompson

Directed by: Mikael Salomon


Studio: Fox

Retail Price: $14.98

Features: Trailers

Specs: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection

Released: February 19th, 2002



Based on real events, "A Glimpse of Hell," digs deep into the investigation of a 1989 explosion aboard the USS Iowa that killed 47 US Navy Crewmembers. In this made for TV interpretation we are most certainly led to believe that the United States Navy attempted to cover up the explosion as a deliberate murder suicide act of one of the USS Iowa's killed crewmates -- When infact the Navy's ignorance of much needed upgrades on the USS Iowa more than likely resulted in the weapon's test explosion.

When watching reality based films, such as, "A Glimpse of Hell," we must always take the film's motives and biases and calculate them into the fact that this is supposed to be "real" information in the form of fiction. At any point in time, we could be being spoonfed false information, and yet, in the end, we may come out with a sense that the film is *true*. It is the opinion of myself that these events more than likely occured -- else there wouldn't be evidence great enough to stir someone's attention to make a film about it. The ideas, if true, presented in the film are well more than an audience would need to determine that the cause of this explosion wasn't because of some irate crew member, but because of falty equipment *somewhere* within the vessel's cannon.

So, reality aside, it's time to judge this film as a fictional piece...

"A Glimpse of Hell" is an OKAY movie. It's nothing grand. It's nothing marvelous or inventive by any means. Just as with any made for TV movie, "A Glimpse of Hell" is not perfect -- Or else you'd be watching it in the theaters. There are moments in the film when reality sticks its ugly head out and tells you that you're still watching a MOVIE -- For example; all the shots of live cannon fire are obviously stock footage shots unfortunately shot with a really crappy video camera. The film's FILM image is constantly being degraded into a mesh of multimedia history snapshots -- Including speeches by then-president George Bush Sr. and other video segments from various news programs. Perhaps this is the point of the filmmakers -- but if you intend on using real-life footage, why not make a documentary? This is, afterall, a MOVIE and their point would be much stronger if presented in a documentary format.

So, here we have a newly positioned Lieutenant, played by Robert Sean Leonard, whom is overly ambitious at times, but we learn to trust -- Of course, this is the character that will inevitably will not agree with the Navy's standpoint. The Lieutenant is one of the first people to visit the scene of the explosion, and his discovery is that the man whom the Navy would eventually blame -- wasn't in the place of explosion, nor was there any discovered remote triggering device or timer to set the explosion. For the remainder of the film, this is the information we are given -- along with minor details here and there -- but ultimately, this is all we are given. James Caan's character, on the other hand, is the reluctant Captain of the USS Iowa, whom sides with the Navy throughout the duration of the film until the very end when he suddenly has a change of heart and (kinda) saves the day.

In the end, the Navy wins (I'm sorry to ruin it for you, but that's how history wrote it), but we are all lead to believe that it certainly wasn't a moral victory -- and possibly even a moral loss towards the Navy in general.

As stated before, it's an OKAY film. It's nothing surprising.


The video track was consistently crisp and clear -- With the exception of those few intercuts of real television footage and obvious Navy stock footage. The colors are somewhat flat and gray, but again, we're supposed to be on a Navy vessel (and who knows the Navy as art design heros?). There are moments when the cinematography is awesome, and there are an equal amount of times when you're reminded about that whole made for tv movie thing. Who knew?


The sound design and structure range from professional to amatuer at any particular point in the story. Voice overs and whatnot are blah at best (when noticable). The Dolby Digital 5.1 track itself wasn't necessarily put to spectacular use -- The usual 2.0 would have been perfectly fine quite honestly. There's not much beef offered to us to REALLY want to enjoy the sound beyond the norm.


What supplements? Trailers for other 20th Century Fox films? Who cares... OOOOO, SUBTITLES!!!


It's a made for tv movie. Don't buy it. Maybe it'll come out again on NBC or whatnot, but don't hold your breath.

If you're really interested in this possible coverup incident, check first to see if there's any Documentaries on the event before you see this. Get multiple views before making an absolute opinion.