K19  - The Widowmaker (7/10)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


 K-19: The Widowmaker is a movie with no sex, no female nudity, no crude language (the ďfĒ word is never used), no infidelity, no promiscuity, no drugs, no gratuitous violence, nobodyís brains blown out before your very eyes, no ludicrous special effects. The question going through my mind was ďhow did this ever get made?Ē

 Whatever the answer, we should be gratified that it was made because itís a taut thriller.  Itís a film that Hollywood used to do so well, and should do more of because it educates while it entertains.  Itís based on the true story of a Soviet nuclear submarine that encountered cataclysmic problems in the middle of a voyage in the middle of the Cold War.  It is noteworthy that this military film, with an almost exclusively male cast, is the result of the vision and creative efforts of a woman, Kathryn Bigelow, who directed it with incomparable realism.  She also co-produced with Joni Sighvatsson, Christine Whitaker, and Edward S. Feldman with Harrison Ford as Executive Producer.

 I was on board nuclear submarines when I was attorney for Litton Industries Ingalls Shipyard, and I can say from personal experience that this movie captures the cramped quarters beautifully.  Sure, itís a little roomier than reality, but the way Bigelow shoots the actors through extreme close-ups and hand held cameras gives the audience a fairly realistic feeling of the claustrophobic atmosphere in a nuclear sub.

 The basis in fact doesnít affect the story telling, which includes a new Captain (Ford) taking over from the old Captain (Liam Neeson) who remains on the ship as second in command.  The tension between these two fine actors, and the ways they influence one another, are well developed.  The acting of the entire cast, and the portrayal of the effects of nuclear poisoning, are realistic and affecting.

 The film also presents an indictment of the inefficiencies that were inherent under Communist rulers, where safety and the individual were sacrificed for the desired results.

 This is a two hour-twenty minute movie of tragedy, heroism, and personal choices that drags only in the last five minutes.  It should have ended before a maudlin, unnecessary terminus.  The only other criticism I have is that the music does not live up to the quality of the rest of the film.  There is one sequence where the moviemakers have decided that the background music should be hymnal-like, and it is inappropriate and distracting. 

 Take my advice; donít read any reviews and donít educate yourself on the story.  Go in as unknowledgeable as you can. The less you know in advance, the more youíll enjoy it.

 K-19: The Widowmaker is a tense, entertaining, well-acted movie.

The End