a critiQal film review K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

Plot: In 1961, in an effort to show the United States they have submarines capable of launching nuclear weapons, the Soviet Union prepares K-19, a nuclear submarine, for launch. Taking command of the ship is Captain Alexei Vostrikov (Ford), with Mikhail Potenin (Neeson) as his executive officer. When the ship begins to malfunction, they must choose between the lives of the crew...or the beginning of World War III. Inspired by actual events.

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  • ...a decent, but not spectacular, submarine movie.

After having seen U-571 (unfortunately on VHS, so no review), I wasn’t as hyped about K-19: The Widowmaker as I could have been. After all, there is a limit to how many submarine movies I can take all at once. I knew this film had potential, with Harrison Ford leading the charge, as opposed to Matthew McConaughy in U-571. The preview intrigued me, so I decided to give in and check it out.

The acting was very well done. Harrison Ford, as usual, gave a very good performance as the Captain – although his accent left a little to be desired. Liam Neeson, an actor who varies from superb (Schindler’s List (1993)) to rotten (Nell), luckily came through with a decent performance here. The bit parts were also played out excellently, and helped create a genuine atmosphere of suspense/drama throughout the film.

The plot, inspired by true events, was very good. K-19 was well-paced, and never seemed to lag, a trait many movies these days seem to fall into – quick action scenes, then long, boring scenes of nothing. This film keeps the viewer engrossed throughout, so the slower scenes don’t detract from the film. The whole film pulls the viewer into that time frame, and tries to put the audience right in the heads of the cast on-screen. What would you have done in the same situation? Save yourself, or your country? A fitting question, with the threat of war looming on today’s horizon.

The special effects were all very well done, and did not come off as too showy. K-19 simulated what the sub and it’s crewmen went through very effectively. The warping of the hull was especially well done. Nothing in the film stood out as a blatant special effect. All of the effects just pulled the viewer deeper into the storyline, and didn’t overtake the film.

With good performances by the entire cast, a well-put together plot, no lags in the storyline, and decent special effects, K-19 is definitely worth your time. Rent, or buy, this one today. By the way, if they have U-571 also…rent this one first.

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