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3.9 out of 5 stars75
3.9 out of 5 stars
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***PLOT SPOILER REVIEW***

As a former submariner who rode these old vessels I found this film fascinating. One story was that the US sunk this ship. This movie presents a different version.

The story is simple. The KGB goes rogue with a submarine with the intent of launching a first strike at the US, making it look like China did it. The film creates characters and internal conflicts to make the story interesting.

Kudos to the film for getting the submarine terminology and capability correct. This aspect was more realistic than most sub films.

There are some problems with the basic scenario. First off in 1968, China had only one Golf style submarine operational. It did NOT have launch capabilities. They wouldn't develop that until 1970. The second problem is that nuclear bombs have signature. We could figure out the difference between a crude Chinese graphite reactor bomb and a slightly more sophisticated Russian bomb. So the premise of the film while interesting, doesn't seem plausible.

Another film goof was when they encountered the USS Skipjack. The Skipjack was stationed out of Norfolk and operated in that area in 1968. The submarine in the Pacific was the USS Swordfish, i.e. a Skipjack class sub, but not the Skipjack itself.

The actors did what they could with a dry script. Landlubbers may find this film a complete bore and rightly so. We already know they fail. Extras include a talk about the real incident on which the film was based.

Parental Guide: F-bomb. No sex or nudity.
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I once read the statistics about how many films are made and how many actually get a cinema release. You would expect a film starring Ed Harris, David Duchovny and William Fichtner to make it to the big screen but I guess there is little demand for submarine movies these days.
That said this is a very good submarine movie that will keep you enthralled to the end. Harris stars as a washed out and troubled captain who is sent out on one last tour with his first boat, an ageing hulk that is about to be sold to the Chinese. Along for the ride are some 'technicians' led by Mr X Files himself who want to test some new equipment at sea. Ed and his executive officer played by the always excellent Fichtner soon figure out that the these and some new crew members are KGB and find themselves in the middle of a plot to start World War 3 and blame it on the Chinese. Can they stop them and will they survive are the big questions.
This is allegedly based on the true story of a Soviet ballistic missile sub that went missing in 1968 and was eventually recovered only to discover that the cause of its sinking appeared to be the missile detonating in its tube, the Soviet choice of fail safe mechanism at the time. All else is conjecture but make for a very entertaining story.
Highly recommended in this blu ray is the soundtrack that fills your room with sound if you have the equipment. Close your eyes at any moment whilst they are underwater and you will be surrounded with superb effects. It is almost worth buying just to show off your sound system.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 22 September 2013
I am a massive Ed Harris fan so wanted to see this just beacuse he is in it. It is `based' on actual events that took place during The Cold War, when the nuclear stand off between America and Russia had us on the edges of our seats a few times and saw the emergence of CND, (now sadly reduced to a fashion logo). Ed Harris plays Demi the Captain of a diesel powered submarine with nuclear capability. He and his crew have just finished a lengthy mission when he is ordered back to sea.

Demi has been suffering seizures from an earlier incident which left him with a head injury. His judgement is sometimes impaired and in good old naval tradition he uses rum to sort out the whole problem. As was the case in those days everyone has a political officer on board and his is actually a friend, however they are also accompanied by some very zealous KGB types who are going to test a top secret new weapon. The KGB are led by Bruni played by David `X-Files' Duchovny. It soon becomes apparent that the KGB are not all they seem to be and might just be going rogue, but as Harris and his men discuss; you only go rogue for two reasons, one is to defect and the other is to start a war; no one thinks these uber Communista types are about to start working for Uncle Sam, and so the scene is set for a rather good thriller.

Now there are a few issues with this film that may turn some people off, for starters they are all supposed to be Russian and yet all speak with their normal accents which I know is fine but I would have liked a veiled attempt to at least pretend to pronounce all your `R's backwards etc or put in `ski' after a few things- still never mind. Then some of the scenes are a bit modern the port is so not 1968, they would have referred to each other as `comrade' and not `sir' etc. There is a full list for real anoraks on IMDB in case you are bothered.

All of that said I still really enjoyed it, it was suspenseful, it was tense and there were some very good performances, Harris and Duchovny were brilliant as was one of my favourites Lance Henriksen as Markov who you may remember from `Millennium' or as the robot in `Aliens' or indeed `Aliens vs. Predators'. The production is generally impressive and everyone puts in solid performances and the time just flew by. So for some Cold War retro thrills you could do a lot worse than to check this out.
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Easily the best submarine movie since Das Boot, this Cold War action thriller romps along with some great turns from Ed Harris, William Fichtner and David Duchovny plus an intriguing cameo by Lance Henriksen. The plot – a rogue element within the KGB threaten to trigger nuclear armageddon among the USSR’s enemies – is just about plausible, and is given greater gravitas by the star performances, tight script stuffed with nautical technical terms and superb set. (Which is an actual Russian sub, so no wonder it looked realistic).

The filming is taut, making the underwater combat sequences into tense affairs despite the obviously low-budget CGI. The atmosphere on board the boat feels credibly claustrophobic, with half the cast in shadows; you’re never sure who might be loyal to the captain or who will side with the political officer or the ominous special forces thugs...
This isn't a traditional 'action-adventure', more of a surprisingly enjoyable ‘what if?’ drama/thriller, which reconstructs a sequence of events that might have happened back in 1968. Phantom captures the mood of the era perfectly, in particular when Duchovny and Harris have guns turned on each other and discuss the possibility of America making a nuclear first strike against the USSR. In three lines of dialogue, this film sums up exactly what the Cold War was about, and that’s much more than we expected from an evening’s entertainment.

Special features are better than average, too.
8/10
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 June 2013
Ed Harris tops a classy cast in this solid cold war thriller. Although the intelligent script evokes some cold war tension, the drama boils down to a localised human conflict. There are a couple of cliched characters in there but the acting is top notch. I find Ed Harris easy to watch and he effortlesly conveys the stoic heroism of a sub captain when faced with the insanity of checking everything with his political officer and having to bow down to KGB specialists who've been put on his sub to test a new piece of kit. It's easy to find similarities between this and the other Submarine set dramas out there, Below [DVD] and Crimson Tide (Extended Cut) [DVD] flashed in to my mind more than once but it's a solid piece of entertainment, the sets are great and the story is first class.
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on 11 September 2013
Starts well, and keeps up the pace till the end, this dark yarn is very absorbing, and has a great twist at the end, worth waiting for.
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on 12 December 2013
This movie was a pleasant surprise. Interesting cast who played their parts well in my opinion.
It may not suit everyone,but it was a relief from the usual big bangs and chases type movies.
Also, kudos to all the cast for filming in claustrophobic conditions!
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on 27 October 2013
Whether or not the actual facts are true, ( subs name type class etc.usually artistic licence)at that time or even IF the protagonists knew bombs had signatures does not detract from a very well acted film. David Duchovy was miscast... The reconstructed claustrophobic atmosphere of a diesel sub added to the tension. well directed and a surprise ending, its up there with "We dive at dawn" another based on fact.

Worth watching...
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Three stars would possibly be a star generous, but when you compare it with the rubbish of “Black Sea”, “K-19” and “The Hunt for Red October”, this perhaps stands a little higher. On the other hand, while “Das Boot” is nowhere near as good-to me-as its reputation (and despised by the book’s author), this is a bit more watchable.

The cast is pretty good, and the sub interior mostly not too shabby. As has been said by others, some terminology is well used. Ed Harris is good, if sleepwalking a little through a script making few demands of his towering talent. William Fichtner as good as ever, Lance Henricksen does his bit right. Only David Duchovny is spectacularly, monumentally unconvincing as the KGB Rogue.

Most submarine aspects are certainly no more risible than in the majority of submarine movies, and there’s a scene at the end that could have been great with a good script and a good director, but it’s so humdrum here that you’re halfway through the sequence before being bothered enough to realise what’s going on.

As I can’t give 2 1/2 stars, 2 will have to do.
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on 11 August 2015
It's a tad boring. Ed Harris delivers a reasonable performance but Duchovny is miscast in my opinion and has very little presence. It has moments of tension and suspense and I quite liked the ending but I would relegate it to a Sunday afternoon when you're ill.
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