It's been more than 20 years since a plausible submarine film hit the silver screen and gave the next generation of sailors inspiration to join the U.S. Navy. So the service has a vested interest in the new movie "Hunter Killer," starring Gerard Butler, hoping to attract new service members as the Pentagon prepares for an era when two great powers may go head-to-head in conflict.
"There's no better place in our universe to put high-stakes, ultra-suspenseful drama [than] in a small room, 1,000 feet under the ocean with all the risk adherent to that," said Butler, who portrays Navy Capt. Joe Glass. In the film, Glass and his crew attempt to circumvent a rogue general's plan to kidnap the Russian president.
"It's about time for a [new] submarine movie," Butler said during a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon on Monday. "Because after the Cold War, it died out as a genre."
He said the 1981 German war film "Das Boot" is one of his all-time favorite movies.
But the film aims for more than just an accurate portrayal of submarine warfare, Butler said alongside Navy Vice Adm. Fritz Roegge, president of National Defense University. It also riffs on the culture and community that are cornerstones of the Navy's worldwide operations, they said.
"Hunter Killer" immerses the viewer in the crew's efforts to "work together as a team, having to use their intellect, their logic, their strategies and often over their military brawn and might," Butler said. "I think this is really one of the selling points of the Navy -- it's really about the people."
The Navy's hope is that the film will help the service attract more recruits. "We're also competing for talent," said Roegge, also the former commander of U.S. submarine forces in the Pacific. "In this dynamic economy, it's more important than ever that we find ways to inspire the next generation of warfighters to consider serving our country in the Navy."
Butler added, "You can have fun with the gadgetry and weapon systems and platforms but, at the end of the day, it's about the people operating them."
The Defense Department had a hand in the script, signing off on it in 2014, Roegge said. However, the service stressed that the film was made at no expense to the Pentagon.
The Navy provided access to the Los Angeles-class USS Houston in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where Butler and crew submerged for three days onboard. The hunter-killer submarine in the film is meant to depict a Virginia-class submarine, Butler and Roegge said.
"You can do it in a movie, but when you are actually on a sub, you realize the dangers that are there," Butler said. "You are a thousand feet underwater and you go, 'OK, what are the different ways things can go wrong?' "
He added, "You have a greater appreciation of what these people do every day."
The movie hits theaters Oct. 26.