Published on September 12th, 2008 | by Chris0
K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)
K-19: The Widowmaker is based on the true story of the Soviet nuclear submarine K-19, which suffered a disastrous reactor failure and nearly resulted in a worse accident, and possibly could have started World War III.
Honestly I'm struggling to write this review. The first half of the movie is a struggle to get through. The second half, well, more than makes up for it.
K-19 is a new class of nuclear sub, and she's been cursed it would seem before even getting wet. Several men have died during construction, and during her christening ceremony, the bottle doesn't break. Not good omens for any ship.
The captain of this crew, Polenin (Liam Neeson) is replaced at the behest of the party officers by Captain Vostrikov (Harrison Ford), leaving Polenin as the Exec. One of Vostrikov's first actions is to replace the drunken yet experienced reactor officer with a fresh-from-the-academy version. And the hilarity ensues.
They embark on their mission, which is to test fire one of their missiles. Along the way, Vostrikov tortures the crew with endless and often dangerous drills and exercises. This of course only increases the crew's ire towards Vostrikov. They successfully perform their test, and receive new orders, to patrol the waters off New York and Washington. Up until this point in the film, you are really left wondering what the hell we are all doing here. Apart from the endless drills, not much else is going on, and it starts to drag on. And on.
Then, the reactor fails. In a bad way. In an almost non-repairable way. In a way that nobody really understands what the outcome will be.... The crew and Vostrikov really start to pull together, and the story finally starts to get interesting.
They manage to affect a cobbled together solution, at the cost of a few of the crew due to radiation. The situation continues to get worse and worse as radiation floods the boat, yet Vostrikov refuses to seek help, and its unclear why.
Not until the repair fails again, and they encounter a US Destroyer offering assistance does the Captain reveal his motives. To try and keep the ship away from everything should it explode, potentially leading to disastrous outcomes on both sides of the ocean.
But the real payoff is the final scene, where the remaining crew of the boat reunites on the anniversery of the event. At this point it doesn't matter which Navy you sail with, the sentiment remains the same. One of comraderie, loyalty and friendship.
Yeah so I spoiled it. If you can manage to get through the mechanics of the first half, and wait for the unfolding drama that awaits you will be satisfied with the outcome.
Although, I have to say that Neeson's and Ford's Russian accents were rather weak. They were just not thick enough I think to be believed. Ford's inparticular just didn't seem right at all, at times I could barely tell it was there, then he'd roll an R or something silly like that....
I will also give props to the production crew for making me believe I was in a Russian cold-war era sub. The entire environment seemed just foreign enough and "Soviet" enough (if that's possible) to really put it across.
K-19: The Widowmaker will start you fidgeting, but eventually rivet you in place by the time its over, and hopefully leave you touched at the end.
Summary: K-19: The Widowmaker is based on the true story of the Soviet nuclear submarine K-19, which suffered a disastrous reactor failure and nearly resulted in a worse accident, and possibly could have started World War III.