Published on July 16th, 2013 | by Chris0
Phantom was not as bad as I was expecting, but not as good as I had hoped. That's the extremely abridged short version.
We find ourselves in the Soviet Union in the late 1960's. Captain Demi (Ed Harris) is given one last command aboard an aging submarine, in fact the same one he was involved in an "incident" some years ago which should have affected his career, but didn't due to his patronage.
The mission, to take Bruni (David Duchovney) and his partner out to test their mysterious new device, code named "Phantom." What is it? Some sort of audio "cloaking device" which makes the boat sound like any number of other craft, deceiving enemy sonar in the process.
The problem, though, is Demi doesn't trust Bruni's motives, and eventually uncovers the truth. That Bruni is in fact a hardline KGB operative bent on using the Phantom to launch the boat's nuclear missiles and start World War III. The usual submarine borne plot ensues. Man takes boat, Captain regains boat, defeats bad guy, loyal first officer is torn between loyalty and duty etc. etc.
I really wanted to like this one. But this is no Das Boot. Neither does it even come close to Crimson Tide or The Hunt For Red October. (Thankfully its still 1000x better than USS Seaviper!) The tension and suspense never really materializes, at least for me.
That, I think, is mostly because of all the strange and unnecessary side trips. Demi's flashbacks and epilepsy. Bruni's personal vendetta against Demi. Periodically being chased by an American sub. The deus-ex-machina of the Phantom itself... and don't even get me started on the final ending. I threw up my hands, quite literally, at that point. "We didn't make it, did we?"
You could say that, yeah. A metaphor for the rest of the movie, perhaps? I think if the focus had remained a duel-of-wits between the principals then it would have been much, much tighter.
Like I said, there are far far better submarine movies than Phantom, and there are far worse. The acting, overall, while not terrible, seemed rather flat. Harris and Duchovny in particular seemed slightly "annoyed" for lack of a better world., all very "lets just get this over with." Effects and production were mostly top notch, but I'm no expert on Cold-war era Soviet submarines. I could deal with the American-English accents. The alternative was to make everybody fake a Russian accent K-19 style, and I'm not sure that would have been for the best. Speaking of K-19, the movie also attempts to go down another side road as an explanation of the real-life missing Soviet nuclear submarine.... Just stop already!!
On the bright side, Phantom is rated PG-13, and never really gets into the profane or gory, so if nothing else you might get to spend some mostly worry free war-movie bonding time with your kids.
Summary: If the focus had been tighter, it might have been a pretty good movie. As it is, its a pretty average run at a cold-war submarine film, which is too bad.