Tuesday, January 20, 2015

K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)


What should be an edge-of-your-seat story isn't in K-19: The Widowmaker.

The 2002 thriller from director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) is "inspired by actual events." What a story to draw from. Russia's first nuclear submarine is riddled with problems in 1961, including a reactor that fails and potentially threatens all the crew if not the world if it explodes.

Instead, we get a feature that feels like a lot of others. Young sailor looks at a photograph of his girlfriend. He must be doomed to die. Check.

Previous submarine captain Mikhail Polenin (Liam Neeson) gets bumped because he became angry when a test run of the ship's missile launching capabilities fails because of shoddy workmanship. Crew considers him to still be the skipper. Check.

New captain Alexei Vostrikov (Harrison Ford) makes no friends with his demanding style. "Much is expected of us. We will not fail," he vows. Vostrikov takes the sub, and his men, to the brink. Will he be turfed? Check.

Oh, can't forget the mournful singing when something bad happens, particularly sailors tapped to fix the nuclear reactor wearing inadequate protection.

The confrontation between crew and skipper, when it finally comes, feels Grade A phony.

There's the occasional standout moment. The sub's crew playing soccer on the ocean's ice is one. A laundry line hanging from the sub is another.

For sub thrillers, I'll stick with Wolfgang Petersen's das boot.

RATING: 6/10

FUN FACTS: Several cast members (Sam Spruell, Christian Camargo, Sam Redford) from K-19: The Widowmaker
reunited with Bigelow for the much-better The Hurt Locker.

No comments: