This is a well crafted, true story and Exposition of the cold war submariners' duties. The unusual thing is that the Russians are depicted as the good guys. The editing, as signified by the pace of the film is superbly done. The claustrophobic aspects of the ship could have been boring but it was not the case. The two captains are shown as mutually distrusting at first but under duress begin to see the others point of view under the weight of an unreliable and dangerous vessel. The 'rights and wrongs' of politics are left aside and the crews lives are shown during this catastrophic failure. Both Alice and I enjoyed this film. It was shown to a Russian audience of Sea fairer and had mixed reviews. One reason was the lack of understanding in the script of the importance of 'heavy water' as a moderator in the nuclear reactor and why ordinary water would not work as well.
on 3 August 2007
K-19 may be historically inaccurate, but show me a military movie that isn't. This film is way more true to life than the idiotic fantasy that was U-571, in which Americans won the second world war by capturing a cipher machine (FYI, it was a British crew who captured the machine and anyway the Brits already had one, reverse-engineered by Polish intelligence and given to them in one of the more stunningly generous acts of wartime cooperation).
The important thing is not so much how doggedly authentic the story is. After all, Wolfgang Petersen's classic 'Das Boot', surely the ultimate sub movie ever in its original miniseries form, is fictional. What matters is the quality of the story, and the story told here in K-19 is profoundly touching. Harrison Ford seems really engaged for the first time in a long time, Liam Neeson is properly cast for a change as a slightly ambiguous figure (instead of just as a nice guy) and Peter Sarsgaard is heartbreaking as the head of the team that attempts to repair K-19's reactor.
Kathryn Bigelow's films have veered between genuinely eerie (Near Dark, The Loveless), silly (Point Break, Blue Steel) and romantic but a bit daft (Strange Days). For my money, this is the first movie she's made that her fans don't have to apologise for. So who cares that the crew all have silly Russian accents? Like you'd prefer that Harrison Ford sounded American and Liam Neeson sounded like he was from Ballymena? The sadness and grimness of life in the USSR have not generally been paid attention to by US filmmakers, who for the most part portrayed Soviets as cannon fodder, but this is a brave effort and a gripping and affecting movie.
I liked this solid, well made submarine thriller, describing a tragedy which really happened. Below, more of my impressions with limited SPOILERS.
Made in 2002, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this film tells a true story. "K-19" was a real Soviet nuclear-powered submarine, the first of eight units of Project 658 known to NATO as Hotel-class, commissioned in November 1960. This was the first Soviet submarine to be in the same time nuclear powered AND armed with ballistic missiles. On 4 July 1961, when conducting exercises near southern Groenland, "K-19" developed a major leak in her reactor coolant system. The reactor temperature rose uncontrollably, threatening to cause a meltdown, which would result in the loss of the ship and the crew. This film tells the story of the accident itself and of everything what happened later...
Kathryn Bigelow tried to stick to the real story as much as she could, but there are of course some differences, one of the most important being the nickname of "K-19", which in reality after 1961 was "Hiroshima" - it was NEVER called "widowmaker" by Soviet sailors. There are also some other, rather minor differences, but I can not detail them more without giving too much spoilers about the plot...
This is a very masculine film, with an exclusively masculine cast and both main stars - Harrison Ford as the skipper, Captain Vostrikov and Liam Neeson as the Executive Officer, Captain Polenin - are excellent, as usual. With the exception of Christian Camaro ("Dexter", "Twilight" saga) and Peter Sarsgaard ("The Skeleton Key", "Flightplan") most of other actors were completely unknown to me, but they all did well too.
Kathryn Bigelow has a kind of special touch which makes her films feel and look REAL - and it is also visible in that one. We can not only hear and see but even almost smell the fear and despair of Soviet sailors who must now share their ship with an invisible, merciless, destroying angel of radioactivity. She also kept this whole thing strongly under control and as the result made a very honest film mixing the submarine theme with a disaster movie and a thriller.
The one thing which I found weak - and sorry for the SPOILER here - is the whole "Third World War" menace thing. As in the real story, here there is an American destroyer which at one moment will follow the crippled submarine and even ask the Soviets if they are in need of assistance. Which also means, that almost from the beginning, US Navy Headquarters and the whole NATO knew that "K-19" was in deep, deep trouble. Therefore, even if the reactor meltdown resulted in contamination of neighbouring NATO installations, there was absolutely NO WAY Western alliance could interpret this as an attack... Also, the very idea that a nuclear reactor meltdown could cause the detonation of nuclear warheads carried by "K-19" is simply LUDICROUS! If a nuclear warhead is not prealably correctly armed with the introduction of special codes (and in time of peace it almost never happens), you can throw it into fire, whack it with a sledgehammer or make an elephant danse can-can on it - and yet, even if it may develop radioactive leaks, it will NOT explode. This useless "Third World War" threat thingy hurt this film a little for me...
Bottom line, I liked this film, but it is not as good as some other Kathryn Bigelow films, like "Strange days" or "Near dawn". Therefore, I can give to it only four stars - but it is nevertheless a very honest watch. Enjoy!
Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson wouldn't be the obvious first choices to play Soviet submariners, but despite this they both do a reasonable (but not great) job in this "inspired by a true story" movie about a nuclear submarine in trouble at the height of the cold war. I have no idea how close to the true story the film is, and it doesn't have the gritty, atmospheric quality of "Das Boot", but it is a watchable film. Is it the best cold-war related film I've seen even in the last few weeks? Is it the best submarine-related film I've seen? The answer to both is a definite no, but it's still worth a viewing. Just don't approach it with huge expectations - to me it felt like standard, run-of-the-mill stuff, lead actors doing adequate rather than great performances, made more obvious by unimaginative editing.
on 10 June 2003
K19, the Widow Maker is a suspense full movie that keeps you guessing the outcome. Your emotions that calls for anger turns into applause and in the final outcome you realize that people, also people that are on the other side are worthy of their courage, their dedication, loyalty and honor to their Nation.
on 17 August 2012
This is a fantastic story, but sadly very poorly brought to the screen.
While watching it, I wondered at some of the casting; other than the visible age difference, I'd have thought Neeson better at the martinet and Ford as the caring one; but both play their parts well enough, and are amongst my favourite actors, so to create a lemon with both is quite an achievement. Only their presence and enjoyably low-key acting from the crew really saves this from one star. The Russian high ups are possibly the most caricatured Americanisms since Dr Strangelove.
However, it was the droning lack of pace in the movie that really annoyed me, in what should have been real edge of the seat stuff. None of the characers elevated themselves to the point of being able to care about them, and quite seriously, I thought it felt as dull as "The Hurt Locker"; then at the credits, I noticed the director, of course Kathryn Bigelow.
Then it all fell together: the films are very similar in that they completely fail to convey the nature of the issues and the people. Like "The Hurt Locker", many aspects of this were appallingly, unforgivably inaccurate (although perhaps that's for cinematic reasons more than anything else, but it's totally unacceptable to show the fin collapsing under pressure and to claim that there was danger of the warheads and reactor detonating). With "Point Break" this completes a trio of twaddle in the only films I've seen to date from a director that (Titanic aside) does not bear comparison with her ex-husband.
Another good story completely wasted.
on 6 November 2015
Harrison Ford as a Russian submarine commander is more convincing than Sean Connery (The Hunt for Red October), but neither he nor Liam Neeson provide any credibility to subject matter based on a true story. The film is reasonably good, as far as submarine movies go, and there have been some bad ones, starring Clark Gable and Glenn Ford. Only one submarine movie offers a sense of reality, the German film, Das Boot, eminently watchable if you can stand sub-titles.
on 17 April 2012
I have watched this film several times and still enjoy watching it, an excellent film with two great actors, well worth the money.
on 12 March 2014
A cursed sub with a monumental disaster in the making, a subs reactor starts
To fail, the ships commander Ford sends men into their deaths to fix the problem
Hampered with wrong radiation kit, many are effected by radiation poisoning also the
Ight officer mutiny, hushed up The facts came out decades later
on 4 April 2006
The submarine film as been done so many times, and there really are some real classic underwater sub films. So many, in fact, that this feels redundant, especially as it adds nothing new to that particular genre.
It's very gritty, and realistic, which I think could be K19s downfall. It's probably the msot realistic submarine film I've ever watched, but others are better because they tend to suspend disbelief in places.
So we get a very strict, serious and ultimately boring underwater adventure where a nuclear submarine could destroy itself and its crew. Cue harrison Ford and Liam Neeson trying to save themselves and the ship.
Giving the film a Russian perspective is a great idea, but why couldn't they have used actual Russians?? All the actors put on Russkie accents, which end up just plain annoying and carciature. It would have made the film far more watchable if they had been proper Russians.
I didn't even think that some of the underwater footage was that great either, being quite murky and unclear, and there was no sense of tension when Ford pushes the crew to the limits.
One good scene however was when the crew had to patch the ship up in the nuclear chamber, which caused some quite harrowing scenes of radiation and ill sailors, giving this film it's high rating.
It's not too bad a film. It's just standard fare, generic, we've seen before. Ford and Neeson are just on cruise control, but the film's biggest problem is in not doing anything new to the genre, makign this film feel old style, and stale. U-571 is more enjoyable popcorn fare, and Das Boot is a better submarine thriller. K19 falls awkwardly in the middle.