K-19: The Widowmaker

Review Date:
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Christopher Kyle
Producers: Kathryn Bigelow
Harrison Ford as Alexi Vostrikov, Liam Neeson as Mikhail Polenin, Peter Sarsgaard as Vadim Radtchenko
The first Russian nuclear submarine is sent out to sea on its maiden voyage in 1961, with many technical and human issues riding in its tow. The man leading the crew is ready to take on any challenge, but some think that he may be pushing everyone to the brink of disaster. Based on real life events, this scary tale gives you insight into what could easily have sparked the next world war.
I’ve always liked submarine movies. Yeah, they’ve made too many as it is, but every time I go into a new one, I expect it to suck rocks, but they always seem to grab me by the nuts at some point, and this flick is no exception. The twist on this puppy is that there ain’t one American in sight and when you consider that this is an all-out USA production…that’s a pretty rare thing. The film is actually a little derivative of most other submarine movies, in its stylistic approach, in many of its male, stoic lead characters and its tight quarters and overall claustrophobic feel, but even though we’ve seen some of it before…it’s still extremely effective so that’s not really a complaint, as much as it is an observation. In fact, as the film’s step-by-step beginnings eventually lead to the sub diving underwater and delving into its various issues, I was pulled in more and more until ultimately, I felt like I was riding alongside with these poor comrades myself. That’s right…I admit it…I even cried like a beeyatch near the end, when the film pushed a number of its emotional buttons. But even with its intensity and ability to engage aside, it was the film’s potent message which further boosted my enjoyment for it all.

Basically, it’s about teamwork, it’s about loyalty, it’s about heroes, patriotism and ultimately, one’s ability to be the best that they can be under the most dire of circumstances (be all that you can be, kids!). I also loved (and I mean “loved”) the relationship between Neeson and Ford’s characters in this movie. The respect, the disrespect and ultimately…the way by which each man was able to connect and disconnect with the other. It was extremely well crafted and written, and both men did their best to bring out the zing in that rapport. It wasn’t as intense or combative as the one in CRIMSON TIDE between Washington and Hackman, but on another level, it was just as good. Of course, I can’t completely review a film like this without talking about the “accents” of its actors. Yes, every single character which we encounter in this film is basically a Russian speaking English…so get over it! I have absolutely no problem watching flicks like this (since this is all “make believe” after all-and oh yeah, me no understand Russian), but the actors should at least be believable and consistent with their accents, and Ford was “decent”, although nothing particularly standout (his accent seemed to come and go at times as well).

I did think that he did a formidable job portraying this very (and I stress the word “very”) stoic, hardheaded and conflicted patriot though, and Neeson was also up to the task as his counterpart. In the end, this film is one of the greater all-around flicks of the year with action, mucho tension, some head-thinking stuff for all head-thinkers, solid acting all around, twists (a turn or two) and a complementary directing style to complete the ball of entertainment (I loved that one shot of the sub coming out of the water and the camera giving us the goods through the scope…nice!). I think this is the type of film which will surely appeal to anyone who enjoyed flicks like 13 DAYS and THE SUM OF ALL FEARS. It doesn’t dumb shit down for mass audiences, it doesn’t bore you with too many overly elaborate details…but it finds just the right balance of message, reality, action, emotion and resolution…to make for one of the more all-around entertaining movies of the summer. Oh yeah, and if you want to start thinking seriously about the events depicted in the picture (first off, go to your local library and get all of the exact facts, since some of this flick is embellished for ‘tainment purposes), be doubly creeped out to see how close we got to yet another war between nations. Das some fucked up shit, folks.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

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