I guess it was time for the movie studios to cash in after Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Point Break) big win at this year’s Oscar Awards. I’m sure the few films that she has directed will be rereleased in the blu-ray format.
This is another of Bigelow’s untypically female films. It takes place on a Russian nuclear sub and is full of suspense and tension. I would argue that this was an underappreciated film that kinda got lost in the shuffle. It was originally released in 2002 during a time of heightened patriotism in the United States. Maybe they were not ready to see a film about a previous sworn enemy (the communist Russians) of the U.S. That could be why the film tanked at the box office.
In 1961 the first nuclear submarine, K-19, built by the Russians is to take its maiden voyage. Things do not go as the Russians had envisioned as the nuclear reactor in the sub has a malfunction which threatens not only the sub and her crew, but may cause a war between the Russians and U.S.
Under incredible stress and the most difficult of circumstances, Captain Alexei Vostrikov (Harrison Ford – Extraordinary Measures, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) and his second-in-command Captain Mikhail Polenin (Liam Neeson – Chloe, Taken) race against time to save the sub, crew and even Russia.
If you are expecting an action film you are going to be disappointed. While it will have your adrenaline flowing due to the tension of the situation, it will not be because of any heart pounding action. Like The Hurt Locker this is more a thinking man’s film about wars and the men who fight them. We get a film where the director does not rely on explosions and bullets, but rather human emotions and reactions to situations they are placed in. Bigelow really gets across that claustrophobic sense that being in a sub creates for the men.
Though it is based on a true story it doesn’t try to be completely historically accurate. That is not the focus of the film. It is trying to show how all soldiers react in similar ways irregardless of what side they are on or what country they come from. The courage and smarts it takes to avoid wars is sometimes greater than what it takes to fight them.
Both Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson do good jobs. Harrison has the thankless job of playing the unpopular, hard ass while Neeson gets to play the more sympathetic character. Or is he? His character undergoes many changes during the course of the film. They both play complex characters and do it well.
-The Making of K-19:The Widowmaker
-Exploring the Craft: Make-Up Techniques
-Breaching the Hull
-It’s in the Details