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Film Review - K-19: The Widowmaker
The submarine film is a rare animal. Members of this small club are Run Silent, Run Deep, Das Boot, The Hunt For Red October, and Crimson Tide. K-19: The Widowmaker deserves to be mentioned in the company of these other fine films.
Most submarine movies are based if not on a single real incident, then on many. K-19 is about the real first Soviet nuclear sub, and the horrible accident that occurred on her maiden voyage.
Harrison Ford plays Captain Alexei Vostrikov, the sub's skipper. His mission is to take a boat out that is not ready, and demonstrate that it can launch a missile from the polar ice cap. He succeeds.
A reactor leak cripples the boat, and the Captain is determined to solve the problem. It is paramount to him that his boat not be taken by the American Navy. This film is and remains a character play. The Captain is a hard nose. He is determined to bully the crew into succeeding. In dealing with the reactor leak, he knows he is sending men into the reactor to their death. Men must die to save the boat.
Lower officers are worried that their Captain will kill them all just to keep the boat away from the Americas. Some begin to think of mutiny. Even the First Officer, who had been the boat's skipper before launching is tempted.
The real force behind the picture is director Kathryn Bigelow who pushed for realism in her sets, and how actors portrayed sailors. Bigelow did her homework in recreating the K-19, and finding innovative ways to get her camera into and moving through cramped spaces.
The tension in the story is very genuine. That seems to be a standard in all good submarine movies. K-19: The Widowmaker plays on this most important attribute of being on a sub, you can die many different ways, and you're just minutes away from any of these causes.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Released in 2002
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Reviewed by Mongo