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K-19 is a unique entry with a poignant portrayal of the other side of the
Iron Curtain, showing the rest of the world the courage and the honour of
the Russians to their mother land. Those who think of Russians, usually
think of blood thirsty killing beasts who drink Vodka all day, but
this is just propaganda. I have Russian background and I have grown up
around ethnics, and Russians are no different than the general public. It
American propaganda that has taken the rest of the world from
the Russian people. In K-19, the Russians are finally portrayed as human
beings in the most harshest of all circumstances. This is not an action
movie and it was not intended to be one. Most of the American comments
here on Imdb are ridiculous. They clearly show the American expectations
a movie: It has to be a blow up, explosion filled, guns and bullets, kill
your enemy blockbuster to make it into their best films ever list. K-19
however did not want to impress the Americans with special effects (it
to the general American public that special effects are all that make
quality movies these days) but instead wanted to show the world that
soldiers were not cold blooded murderers and were not war thirsty, but
soldiers under extreme circumstances - to show the struggle on the other
side and to show the fear of death and the courage and heroics in
nuclear war, subsequently sparking World War III.
I was really impressed that at least some of the American comments were realistic, for anybody who understands cinema would classify this as a "masterpiece". I have come across many hilariously stupid and ridiculous American comments where they think they know what they are talking about and the thing is, they don't. Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson pulled off a brilliant realistic performance. In my opinion, their accents were very well done (I am Russian, so I would know) and the direction was splendid (a benchmark in sub film history with its claustrophobic sense and close direction). I felt really sorry for the characters, especially for the Nuclear Reactor Officer. The Kirov Orchestra pulled off one of the greatest soundtracks that I have ever heard (really powerful and striking pieces) and the general Russian feel throughout the film was "Authentic".
I was truly struck by this film. It sent shivers down my spine. The settings, the story telling, the performances, the direction, the music, the tension, the interaction and chemistry between the characters, the authenticity and best of all the cast truly made this film a "masterpiece". Thank you to one great "American" film director (Kathryn Bigelow) for waking up and seeing the Russians in a different light.
This movies is certainly a 10/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Based on a true story, K-19: The Widowmaker tells of the Soviet Union's
attempt in 1961 to not fall behind the United States in the Cold War.
The United States had just launched the Polaris-class nuclear
submarines. K-19 was a Russian sub retrofitted for nuclear
capabilities. The Soviet crew's assignment was to take the sub into the
Arctic and test fire an Intercontinental missile. The Americans would
monitor the test as a part of routine surveillance--the test was done
relatively close to a NATO outpost for one, and it would notify them
that the Soviets had equal capabilities to the American Navy, helping
to either stave off war, sustain the Cold War, or both, depending on
As the film begins, K-19 Captain Mikhail Polenin (Liam Neeson) is running his crew through a routine simulation. The nuclear reactor ends up having a problem, as it had on previous simulations. Polenin says they're not ready to run the mission yet. Instead of listening to him, the Soviet military powers that be install a new Captain--Alexei Vostrikov (Harrison Ford). Vostrikov is a hard-ass, which doesn't help him go over well with the K-19 crew, who were used to being chummy with Polenin. To make matters worse, Vostrikov has a questionable reputation--many believe that he's only in his position because of familial influence, and this despite the fact that his military father ended up in the gulag. After a number of bad portents, the sub is off on its mission and Vostrikov tries to get the crew into respectable and responsible shape so they can complete their task and get back home. As foreshadowed by the prologue, the K-19 eventually has a crisis with its nuclear reactor. The bulk of the film tells of this dilemma, attempted solutions, and various problems it causes.
K-19 is incredibly suspenseful and emotionally poignant. But it's perhaps amazing that it creates such nail-biting tension when we consider that on the surface level, it is simply a drama about a piece of machinery. Most of the plot is about trying to fix a broken gadget.
That might not sound very exciting, but there's much more to the film that a superficial glance at its plot would indicate. Director Kathryn Bigelow makes K-19 a combination of extended character portraits--primarily of Vostrikov, but also of a handful of other K-19 crewmembers, and a subtextual exploration of formal organizations and hierarchies in general.
Of course, the film is also a tribute to the real-life sacrifices and heroism of the K-19 submarine crew, who couldn't tell their stories for many years due to the Soviet government's official squelching of the incident. And on that end, the film is also a remarkable and perhaps somewhat controversial (politically and even artistically/philosophically) attempt to tell a serious, "balanced" historical story from a perspective "within" another culture.
Ford's performance is top-notch. He easily coaxes viewers to first hate him, even if they can understand his motivations, then he gradually layers complex nuances of character until we finally turn our opinions about Vostrikov around and empathize with him--but after not a little skepticism, which lingers for most of the central portion of the film--finally rooting for him against those government meanies who just can't understand his decisions because they weren't there. The whole arc easily takes film viewers on the same emotional journey the K-19 sub crew would have had.
Neeson has a similarly complex arc, but much more subtle--fitting for his supporting role. He goes from being your best buddy to someone to be suspicious of, then someone to be disliked for being a hard-ass of a different sort, then finally he surprises the audience with a saving grace action just about the same time that we realize that Ford as Vostrikov was right all along.
The film would be worth watching for just these two fine performances. But the crewmembers featured are just as sympathetic, especially when they make their mind-boggling sacrifices.
The progression of the matrix of dynamic personalities, their judgments, reservations, disputes, and suspicions, their pressing on despite less-than-perfect circumstances, and their relation to edicts from on high resemble what is probably more the norm for any complex, formal organization--not the least of which is the film-making enterprise, and more than likely, wherever you earn your daily keep.
Most of us have been involved with vocation-oriented projects or tasks that have had to progress despite the fact that a lot of people (involved or not) thought there were problems with the project or task at a fundamental level. This happens in films all the time. Studios and producers demand that a film begins production, maybe because it has to meet a particular release date, maybe because of marketing tie-ins and on and on, yet there still might not be a finished script, or we still don't know who is going to be cast as the villain, or any number of potentially disastrous situations. Vostrikov is like a film director being told to turn in a product on a tight deadline. He's doing the best he can to get the film rolling, and that means getting the crew to stop goofing off so they're ready to shoot, especially if the pressure becomes greater. It's probably a good thing that films don't run on nuclear reactors.
Of course the more literal political dilemmas that arise later on in the film are equally fascinating. But the humanizing elements of the characterizations and the universalizing elements on the story are what make K-19 hit home so hard. They add to the intriguing historical drama, the great direction and the good cinematography, score and other technical elements to easily push K-19 up to a 10.
Forget the critics, forget about the whiney
Russian sailors: this film is worth watching.
This just goes to show how idiotic the general
viewing public has become. Critics have
become nothing but a bunch of "good review"
whores who work for commission and free gifts.
It just goes to show idiotic they are, embracing
schlock like Spider-man but putting down
audacity like this film. For shame. With a good
cast, excellent tension and Harrison Ford, they
still want more action and silly exposition.
Maybe it is the subject matter, or maybe it's the fact Harrison Ford isn't killing anyone and trying to act sexy, but I cannot understand why anyone would put this film down. I don't think this film is detrimental to the reputations to the Russian sailors, who were portrayed with gusto and bravado not exhibited in most submarine films. Also, the claustrophobic nature of the film must have been difficult to film, considering the close quarters the characters had to work with. Overall, the film probably could have used some fine tuning, but the way it is, it is still quite a film to watch. 7.2/10
This was a pretty solid supposed true story of a Russian submarine and
its captains during the early 1960s. It's memorable, story-wise, for
the radiation victims among the crew members. There are some really
dramatic scenes involving that horrific event. Otherwise, it's a story
of the sub's problems and the conflict between two captains.
The story starts slowly so you have to stick with it as it gets better and better as it goes on and rewarding enough to make you glad you hung in there for the whole 137 minutes.
Profanity is minor and the Russian accents are handled well by the lead actors, led by Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson and Peter Sarsgaard.
It's not a great film, but it's good and interesting enough to recommend a rental, but not something I'd watch numerous times. Those radiation scenes would be a little too grim to watch numerous times.
I rented this DVD for a little diversion, in spite of the bad buzz and the word "flop" attached. I thought it was a very good movie, very suspenseful and interesting. I don't nitpick about things like accents with films, just try to enjoy them. I agree with the majority of posters here, it is well worth your time.
All right this is not the most historically accurate film of all time. That
is true. But there are a good number of historical accuracies not to
mention tremendous suspense in this great film. Harrison Ford plays Alexi
Vostokov a controversial Russian Submarine captain in the 1960's who is put
in charge of Russia's first nuclear sub. There is a tremendous amount of
controversy especially considering the fact that the previous captain played
by Liam Neeson is now the second in charge.
The movie is extremely suspenseful. There are a lot of thrills a lot of tense moments with the sub and with the people on the sub. The special effects in the move were phenomenal but unlike many movies today the special effects do not attempt to make up for the lack of a bad script or acting job. Some of the movie was not so accurate but there is so much that is.
Harrison Ford was not a very good captain and in a ship they do not put the previous captain second in command at least in America because of the attachment you have to the leader. I know this because my father was in the navy and telling me all of this. The only thing that surprised me was that the movie did so bad at the box office. This had a great cast a lot of suspense. I can't figure out why people didn't watch it but I do have an idea.
This movie was released the same week that the Toby Keith song we'll put out boot up you're a%^ it's the American way came out. Since the Russians were once considered the sworn enemies of America not to mention most of the free world I don't think in this time of ultra-patriotism that people were too willing to watch it. I live in one of the most conservative areas in the country. A lot f what I heard as well was that this movie was too intense despite the PG-13 rating.
This was an all around great movie. This is one of Harrison Ford's best roles and him and Liam Neeson were stiffed at the Oscars in 2003. They both did that good. If anyone tells you this is a stupid movie don't listen to them. This is an entirely too underrated movie that will keep you on the edge of you seat for over two hours. This is a very well done movie Kathryn Bigelow the director did a great job.
This film reminded me more of "Glory" than of "Hunt for Red October" or "Das Boot." The men sacrificed themselves not for The State or some ideology, but for each other, their fellow men & their leader. You know, most of us can't change the world. In a million years, whatever we do won't make a bit of difference anyway. It's the small things--one person, one moment, one action--that really count. That's what this story said to me. Besides it's more exciting than all the shooting, car crashing, exploding movies out there.
In an attempt to break from his usual sympathetic every man bit, Ford
blunt, powerful, hard working Russian Naval officer who is given command
nuclear powered sub from its well liked, almost fatherly captain played by
Neeson. Harrison and Liam clash as only two strong willed alpha males can
when they take the sub out for a spin and fight to keep it from blowing
causing a world wide tragedy.
Based on a true story.
Ford and Neeson give solid performances to this long, murky, cold, and ultimately detached action drama that proved to be one of 2002's lesser box office endeavors. As stated before, the film suffers from a feeling of disconnection, even as numbers of brave men are sent into the nuclear reactor with improper protection ("They might as well be wearing rain coats!")
Could have been better, and it could have been a lot worse. Rent and judge for yourself. Probably mostly for fans of Ford and Neeson.
K-19 has a massive cast, especially in the two lead characters of
Mikhail Polenin (Liam Neeson) and Alexei Vostrikov (Harrison Ford). My
understanding is that Ford wanted to take on a role different than ones
he had taken in the past to prevent type-casting, and while he does a
good job in his role (as does just about everyone involved), the movie
does slip up a little bit by having an almost nonexistent Russian
presence in what is supposed to be the story of a Russian submarine.
Comparisons to the far superior Hunt for Red October are inevitable, and it is interesting to note that that movie was also about a Russian submarine but was presented all in English, but it doesn't lose credibility the way K-19 does, probably because it at least maintained a Russian accent, while Ford is speaking an unmistakable American accent and Neeson, well, Neeson is just Neeson and that's always good. He makes a great German but is less convincing as a Russian. I don't know why.
Nevertheless, as a story about an extremely important submarine mission rife with problems the movie succeeds brilliantly. K-19 is basically Russia's protection again nuclear war, which they fear the Americans might start at any moment. They hope to deter attack by showing evidence that they can issue destruction in return, and it is because of this that the sub is commissioned and sent on a mission to the polar ice caps to launch a test missile. There is a great scene where all of the crew and many other people are witnessing the launch of the submarine, and a woman swings a bottle of champagne on a rope to smash against the hull, but it bounces off unbroken. "We're cursed," one of the dismayed crewmen says. That woman must have felt terrible.
There is an immediate rivalry between Polenin, who understands the ship's limitations and wants them corrected before beginning the mission, and Vostrikov, who also understands the ship's limitations but also understands how important the mission is and so outranks Polenin's protests. One of the best things about the movie is that the dramatic action is pushed along by genuine concerns. The movie would have suffered terribly if they were ignoring such important problems with the submarine without good reason.
One of the best things about the movie is that it is able to create so much dramatic tension, even though it takes place during peacetime. There was a huge amount of political tension in the air, but there wasn't a war going on. This is why there is not a lot of concern shown when an American destroyer is sighted near the submarine, because one of the goals of the mission is for the Americans to see what they're doing.
Instead, a small leak aboard the nuclear sub becomes a problem big enough to potentially start a war. Incidentally, one of the crewmen noticed something wrong with one of the dials at least twice before the leak was discovered (once before the ship left port). Had he reported that problem when he first noticed it, he could have saved the lives of everyone who died because of the radiation and prevented the entire thing. At any rate, once the leak is discovered, the options are to abandon ship and surrender the crucial technology to the Americans (a single concession which could dramatically alter the futures of the two nations, and thus rendering it unacceptable), try to repair the reactor without sufficient protection against the radiation, or scuttle the ship (also unacceptable because of the boat's importance).
There is a tense scene where Vostikov orders the ship to dive to almost crush depth, one of the obligatory scenes in submarine movies where the hull creaks and groans and everyone stares at the ceiling, like there's something to see there, and then he orders the ship to ascend at breakneck speed, surfacing through a layer of ice. Vostrikov intends to push the boat and the men to the limit so that they all know what the limit is, but unfortunately it culminates in a hugely disappointing display of digital effects as the ship breaks through the ice in something that looks more like it belongs in a cartoon than a serious film like this (I was reminded of the unfortunate Scrat's efforts to save an acorn from a splitting glacier in Ice Age).
The film requires an extra bit of suspension of disbelief to accept a story about a Russian submarine but without any Russian actors. I'm curious to know how it was received in Russia. I imagine it was a hit, despite the lack of Russian presence in the film, because it illustrates their courage and dedication to their country in the most difficult of times. But nonetheless, it is hugely effective and never lets up once it gets going. The ending strikes me as the part where the most creative liberties were taken with the original true story, leaving you with the feeling of a Hollywood ending imposed on a true story from Russian and American history. But if nothing else, the movie is a fascinating look at how close we came to widespread destruction during one of the most tense times in modern history.
There is a scene early on in this film that pretty much sums up the
risk that the crew of the new submarine of record will be taking. The
officers are sitting around enjoying some vodka and one of them brings
up the cosmonaut hero Yuri Gagarin. He offers the rumor that Gagarin
was not in fact the first man sent into space. He was simply the first
guy who made it back alive. And the crew of this brand new nuclear sub
will face similar danger as their hastily prepared vessel will be
pushed to the limit in order to impress both the politburo, and make
the Americans take note of its existence. The boat has not even left
the dock before it has claimed a handful of lives, most notably the
ship's doctor who is hit by a truck just before departure. The top
nuclear engineer on board is also hastily replaced when he is
discovered drunk on duty. And of course, the champagne bottle doesn't
break during the dedication ceremony on the first hit. This is a
uniformly bad omen in anyone's navy! K-19 stars two wonderful actors in
Harrison Ford, and Liam Neeson. Neeson plays the boat's original
captain who strongly objects to how hastily the new vessel was thrown
together. Ford, who has higher political connections is put in charge
of the K-19 with Neeson being demoted to executive officer. Both men
are stubborn, be generally respectful to one another. Trouble is, as
the film later points out, a ship can only have ONE captain. One man
that the crew looks to and respects. Two such men only create tension.
Once the boat leaves port, things generally go pretty well. Despite a
leak or two, the boat initially holds together. Ford orders a very deep
descent, and of course we are treated to one of those scenes which
every submarine movie has where the entire crew looks on nervously as
the boat may or may not implode under pressure. Anyway, it holds up.
The K-19 then breaks through a patch of ice and has a successful test
firing of a missile. Everything looks like it is going great. The crew
even stops to pose for a happy picture atop the ice after a game of
soccer. Of course, things begin to fall apart from there on.
First off, the nuclear reactor pretty much goes kaput. Radiation levels rise rapidly, and for a while it looks like the whole sub might explode. Making things even more drastic is the presence of an American destroyer ship that would theoretically be taken out if the sub went nuclear. Tensions between the two nations were never really much higher than they were back then, so this may have been a real possibility. Once things start going badly, the tensions between Ford and Neeson begin to magnify. A mutiny is even attempted by those loyal to Neeson. Worst of all, the attempt to fix the reactor takes the lives of a handful of the crew in a particularly gruesome fashion. The film becomes more tense as things keep getting more and more dangerous for all involved. The conclusion is somewhat logical, but it might seem a little contrived. The entire movie is loosely based on real events, but the film has too many clichés for it to really be taken too seriously. Since there is no outright warfare going on here, the script has to pretty much recycle just about every tense moment from every other submarine movie not actually involving live combat.
The acting is good, but Harrison Ford is a bit tough to swallow as a Russian. His accent needs a little work, but other than that his performance was as good as he could have done for such a part. Neeson is terrific as usual. Peter Sarsgaard also shows great promise in this early effort of his. Hats off to director Kathryn Bigelow for using the claustrophobic environment of the submarine to her advantage. It must have been a difficult shoot, but she makes it work as well as you could hope. The film lost a small fortune at the box office for whatever reason. Maybe the absence of an American lead character was too much to overcome. Anyway, it is a shame that more people have yet to see this very good film. 7 of 10 stars.
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