Sadly, this movie came highly recommended (although it did not receive good reviews); I cannot recommend it to you, my reader, unless I was recommending it as a sedative. K*19 is the true story (co-produced by National Geographic Films, no less) of a Soviet submarine pressed into duty early in 1961 before the boat is remotely close to ready, to meet a political need, and how the maiden voyage could have triggered World War III.
Or at least that’s what the makers would have us believe, since there is little else in the way of dramatic tension to keep us awake. Harrison Ford is brought in at the last minute to be K*19’s captain, pushing Liam Neeson down to executive officer even though he is beloved by the crew and Ford is seen by them as a careerist who married a politician’s daughter to advance his career. I had no trouble seeing where director Katherine Bigelow (Strange Days) and writer Christopher Kyle (TV’s Homicide: Life on the Street) thought the tension would be.
“There are great human dynamics in this story,” Neeson said in a publicity piece, and this is the crux of the problem–the dynamics just aren’t that great. Sorry. Running drills on a submarine don’t make for tension as they are only drills. Towards the end, when the boat is stranded and an American helicopter flies over to reconoiter, the Soviet crews’ response to the enemy is a mass mooning. Wow, that was just how I would have answered my mortal enemy during the depths of the Cold War. The one bit that I found interesting, when the young officer in charge of the reactor crew refuses to sacrifice himself, is Hollywooded away without his ever being confronted by any other character onboard for his cowardice.