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Towards the end of the movie Crimson Tide, there's a tense scene in which Capt. Ramsey (Gene Hackman) engages Hunter (Denzel Washington) in a discussion about the Lipizzaner stallions.

The scene is of cinematic importance as it outlines the nature of the two men, which is essentially the cause of the friction between them. However, it escapes me, why does Capt. Ramsey throw in a joke regarding the horses?

The exact dialogue is as follows

Some of the things they do, uh, defy belief. Their training program is simplicity itself. You just stick a cattle prod up their ass and you can get a horse to deal cards. [Chuckles] Simple matter of voltage.

He then shoots a knowing look across, and Lt. Zimmer and him share a laugh. Was he trying to make a statement to Hunter? Or was it just a snub to Hunter's smart reply that the stallions were black at birth?

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Capt. Ramsey has considered Hunter to be insubordinate and treasonous since early in the movie. Ramsey believes in chain of command and subordinates following orders. He believes that Hunter should have repeated Ramsey's command without questioning it.

So I interpret Ramsey's knowing look and laugh as him saying: if you apply enough voltage, you ensure chain of command (the Lipizzaner and Hunter doing what you tell them to).

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    I agree. After all, Ramsey was from the school of thought that believed that discipline can be enforced only with fear, intimidation and power. Whereas, Hunter believed in leading men by example and inspiring them. – Sayan Dec 18 '14 at 7:03
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When I saw Crimson Tide, I took this line as Ramsey trying to provoke Hunter by making a joke about brutality toward something Hunter likes. Earlier in the movie, they have a conversation about horse riding, and it's clearly something Hunter enjoys. So, of all the "just follow orders" analogies he could've used, he almost goes out of his way to use one that is brutal to something Hunter cares about.

  • Ya, that makes sense too. Ramsey might be rousing Hunter so that he loses his composure. Something which he had maintained throughout! – Sayan Dec 18 '14 at 7:00

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