K19 The Widowmaker

Stars:   Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Peter Sarsgaard, Christian Camargo, Joss Ackland, Michael J.X. Gladis, George Anton, Shaun Benson
Director:    Kathryn Bigelow
Screenwriter:   Christopher Kyle

K-19: The Widowmaker is based on the true story of Russia’s first nuclear missile submarine. Harrison Ford plays rigid submarine captain, Alexei Vostrikov, the kind who tows the party line and who, at the height of the Cold War, is ordered to take command of the vessel away from its original leader, Captain Mikhail Polenin (Liam Neeson), a humane and well-liked officer. Vostrikov’s orders are to hasten, at all costs, the poorly constructed sub’s readiness for sea trials. This pits the two men against one another. Polenin thinks the sub is a dangerous lost cause while Vostrikov would rather risk the lives of the men than his career.

When the ship’s cooling system fails the two officers must set aside their differences to avert a nuclear meltdown. They fear that if they don’t succeed, the resulting explosion could be mistaken for a nuclear attack that could trigger the next world war. The near-catastrophic incident was suppressed for decades by a suspicious Soviet government and the crewmen who labored heroically to keep the sub from exploding, died bravely and alone while those who survived were forced into an agony of silence.

My first problem was getting past Harrison Ford playing a Russian. But he’s so humorless in his role that I was quickly able to ignore his lousy accent and pay attention to the drama unfolding which soon becomes tense and then finally gut wrenching as man after man succumbs to radiation poisoning. It’s almost too real to watch.

Lotta says: This cold war drama has enough going for it to keep your interest up. The first half where Vostrikov continually tests his men’s abilities through numerous drills is something we’ve seen dozens of times before but thankfully we do get a good sense of the men’s characters. Both Ford and Neeson were spare in their roles, working well within the confines of their setting. It’s a good tight drama with well directed action sequences.