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K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

Cast: Harrison Ford, Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, more...
Director: Kathryn Bigelow, Kathryn Bigelow
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Studio: Paramount
Genre: Seafaring
Running Time: 137 min.
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English
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A real-life historical incident becomes the basis for this military thriller from director Kathryn Bigelow that's reminiscent of such submarine dramas as Das Boot (1981), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Crimson Tide (1995), and U-571 (2000). Harrison Ford stars as Captain Alexi Vostrikov, a Russian naval officer who's being given command of the Soviet Union's first nuclear submarine, K-19, at the height of the Cold War in 1961. The vessel's previous commander, Captain Mikhail Polenin (Liam Neeson) has been demoted to executive officer following a botched test and his outspoken assertions that the flagship is not yet ready for deployment, but he curbs his resentment and resolves to serve his new superior well. Polenin's concerns are well founded: parts are not yet installed, equipment is missing, and the ship's doctor is killed in an auto mishap. Political pressure forces Vostrikov to sail his crew into the North Atlantic anyway, for a missile fire test that serves as a warning to the U.S. that its enemy is now its technological equal. The test is a success, but a disastrous leak in the K-19's reactor cooling system soon threatens to create enough heat to detonate the craft's nuclear payload -- which would certainly be mistaken for the first salvo in a worldwide atomic exchange and spark the beginning of World War III. With no other option, Vostrikov orders his men to repair the damage in ten-minute shifts, irradiating them hopelessly. The conflict between the seemingly bureaucratic Communist Vostrikov and the more humane Polenin escalates, until a surprising twist reveals where both officers' loyalties truly lie. ~ Karl Williams, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Good action war movie by bmwmkc323i September 2, 2004 - 11:53 AM PDT
0 out of 3 members found this review helpful
War movies are my favorite types to watch and this remind me sorta like the movie called U-571. Harrison Ford is a great actor in this movie.

A Look at Real Heroism by talltale August 16, 2004 - 4:59 PM PDT
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful
K-19 THE WIDOWMAKER will probably be one for the record books. It flopped badly, and is among Paramount's big-time losers regarding money spent against money earned. I can understand the many negative reviews, since the film moves slowly and gives the viewer a heavy sense of deja vu. And yet... If you wade past the first hour, with the so-so accents and fairly standard level of writing and performance, you will find yourself upon a scene of young men facing the prospect of offering up their lives to save their ship and comrades. This is harrowing to watch--both the preparation and the outcome--and the rest of the film hangs together and moves inexorably onwards due primarily to this scene. The real subject, finally, is heroism, and if the writers and director hammer this home a bit heavily at times, it can certainly bear repeating these days. Perhaps this is one reason why the film flopped. It calls to mind real heroism, rather than the cheap-jack variety that our country's administration has been marketing pre- and during the Iraq war. Here is a film made and financed by (mostly) Americans that deals with Russian heroism and government betrayals. Perhaps there is a young filmmaker (Russian or Iraqi?) out there who will gift the world with a film about American actions during 2003 onwards. Let's hope an audience will exist to watch it a decade hence. Meantime, for all its faults and (probably) omissions, K-19 THE WIDOWMAKER exists to give us some difficult-to-digest food for thought.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 5.67)
49 Votes
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Dive Dive!!
submarine films
Study on Nuclear Weapons and the Cold War
Some of the best films on the nuclear arms race, the cost of nuclear weapons and the Atomic Age (this list is still being updated, if you have any suggestions e-mail me)

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