K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5.  

United Kingdom/Germany/USA/Canada, 2002.  First Light Production, IMF Internationale Medien und Film GmbH & Co. 2. Produktions KG, Intermedia Films, K-19 Film Production, National Geographic Society, New Regency Pictures, Palomar Pictures.  Story by , Screenplay by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by Kathryn Bigelow, , , Music by .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .

Thrilling underwater action film directed by the superb Kathryn Bigelow. It takes place in 1961, when a Russian mega-submarine called K-19 is running sea-drills to test its readiness for use by the Soviet government. Its former captain () doesn’t even see its being ready for the tests let alone full operational use, but his objections fall on deaf ears, and the crew have nicknamed the craft The Widowmaker thanks to the accidental deaths that keep happening in it before it even hits the water. The situation isn’t helped when the government appoints a new captain (), one so intent on maintaining Russia’s ambitions for world superiority that he is ready to sacrifice the lives of the men on board to do it. Things get sticky when they are deep in international waters and the nuclear reactor that operates the craft threatens to suffer a meltdown that could repeat the effects of the Hiroshima bomb to multiple proportions. Tight editing and excellent sound work, plus committed performances and Bigelow’s marvelous pacing all conspire to make a terrific movie with a satisfying, though heartbreaking, resolution. It’s quite odd to see a film with a propagandistic style more like American hero stories being told about a nation once thought to be the enemy; it is, however, satisfying in the face of a similar film like U-571, which stole a British story and turned it into an American one for the purposes of selling more tickets.  Ford and Neeson going for Russian accents is a bit too precious to swallow, but their strong personalities dominate the film anyway, and the film succeeds by relying on them.

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