I am disappointed that more people did not like this film. I took copious notes so I know why I liked it. First of all, you can’t complain about the outcome because it is based on recently declassified actual events. It was also co-produced by National Geographic so you probably can’t fault the research. Can I just say, the props alone were enough to send me into a tizzy, and the story is too good to be fiction.
All political and pacifist/patriot notions to the side for a moment, but considering technologically where the US was in 1961, never mind the woefully underfunded Soviet Union, it is absolutely stunning, amazing, what these (and our) sailors were able to achieve with these submarines. Truly amazing. At times I would step out of the story and marvel at the navigational accuracy with no computers, the engineering, the sheer scale of the achievement. Wisely, although it was too sobering at the moment, my companion noted how much could have been achieved in other arenas if all that knowledge and energy and funding had been directed elsewhere, but I refuse to let that too-true notion destroy my appreciation of this film.
I’ll get this out of the way now: it is totally weird hearing Harrison Ford do a Russian accent. He’s no Meryl Streep, but he’s no John Malkovich either, but he was the President of the United States (Air Force One) for goodness’ sake! But he is still the volk of the sea. Liam Neeson, speaking as he always does, was somehow more believable. However, still, not so distracting that I could not enjoy it.
Submarine movies come with their own built-in tension – narrow, confined spaces, the pressure of the ocean depths above you, the terrifying need for silence and careful movement. It’s enough to make you go ga-ga. Add to that the great K-19’s many, many mechnical failures (some due to the excess pride and/or determination to prove himself of her captain, Ford), and the curse-like atmosphere of her launch, and you have got yourself some nail biting moments!
Seriously, I had sweaty palms almost the whole film. Disaster heaps upon disaster – human and mechanical errors compound potential problems, and then it just gets worse, I really was stuck to the screen. The sound and music was also very effective, the tense dives and crushing sea water, the emotional thrum and the increasing hopelessness and panic. By the end, and I mean the “years later” end, I was quite stirred and moved. (And the makeup was great.) Maybe I am easily manipulated, but I was feeling the fear big time during the bulk of the action. It’s a drama, not an action movie. Director Kathryn Bigelow (the hateful Strange Days) knows how brutal men can be to other people, mentally or physically, and she takes them all there.
One of my favorite of the crew members was Vadim Radtchenko, played by Peter Saarsgaard; his performance brought out a lot of my own empathies. Liam and Harrison have their little swordfights and they are well-acted but nothing as spectacular is Saarsgaard’s blubbering 3rd act. Love it! Check it out.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 7/19/02
Time in minutes 140
Director Kathryn Bigelow