Review: “K-19 The Widowmaker”

Whilst not establishing itself anywhere near “Hunt for Red October” legendary status or even “Crimson Tide” solid thriller territory, “K-19” is nevertheless an entertaining and deliberately paced suspense drama which uses a solid cast, true history story and a slick directing job by Director Kathryn Bigelow to overcome the rather languid and sometimes routine script which never properly explores the characters and/or puts them in action sequence setups which have become cliched and overdone.

Its a shame really, the events onboard the real life Kursk made for dramatic storytelling on their own and the fact that it was just one of many armed forces accidents which the Soviet Union covered up for decades could’ve proved an interesting subplot into Russian political manuevering and power plays. Instead what happens here are various changes to history to result in a drama far more Tom Clancy than real life.

The most notable being the addition of a American Destroyer boat nearby into the action to up the threat of potential atomic war if the crew can’t stop the overheating reactor. It, combined with some preachy speeches, forced characterisation and so-so score are unneeded and not essential to an otherwise quite tragic and powerful tale of real life comradeship and honor which still shines through at times.

Indeed the reactor repair scenes are quite harrowing and effective, whilst little moments between not just the leads but the two somewhat green engineer friends Pavel & Vadim (Christian Camargo & Peter Sarsgaard) are some of the warmer moments of the film. Ford and Neeson (the former especially) do slip up on their accents several times, and while their characters do tend toward the stereotype at times (one for the party, the other for his men) they hold things pretty solid.

FX and submarine beauty shots are pretty good when they’re shown including a nice effects shot of a missile launch. There’s a short subplot involving suspicion of “what happened to K-19” in the highest ranks of the Russian military but sadly nowhere near the brilliant dialogue or simple face-off style fun as the Russian Ambassador and US Security Advisor in ‘Red October’.

The fact that a major budget US film featuring purely Russian characters with a sympathetic tone has been made is an achievement in itself and congrats on Bigelow and crew for doing it. While what’s here is good – much like most US military movies it at times feels like its substituting fiction for real life heroism which is a shame as that looks down on both us as an the audience and the men its trying to honour.