I’ve seen a few really worthwhile submarine films. Das Boot, The Hunt For Red October, Crimson Tide, and U-571. They come to mind as a few of the standouts. K-19 also stands out, because it is based on true events..
In 1961, Russia was testing submarine based nuclear missile launches in response to the American “first strike” capabilities. The program was rushed along with very little concern for safety. It’s here where we pick up the story in the movie.
The Captain Polenin (Liam Neeson) of the K-19 is replaced, and is forced to be a subordinate to new Captain Vostrikov (Harrison Ford). All of this happens during the critical first test of their new missile system. What follows, is one disaster after another. Critical systems fail, and the crew finds themselves stranded in the Arctic with a leaking reactor.
The suspense gets thrown into high gear as the crew finds ways of repairing the failing reactor. As radiation is filling the sub, the crew threatens mutiny against the unwelcome replacement captain. All the while, an American ship looms close by. The story is captivating, as well as a little frightening. These events could have lead to World War 3.
Liam Neeson puts in a solid performance. I felt some sympathy in his portrayal of a dedicated officer in the Soviet Navy who has been undermined by those whom believe they know his submarine and crew better than he. Harrison Ford, on the other hand, puts in a wooden performance as the stern and humorless replacement captain. If there is any emotion in his performance, I missed it. He just appears too uncomfortable in the role, and he cannot wield a Russian accent either. It is really hard to beat him up over his acting in the film though, the wooden delivery and general discomfort is almost appropriate for the character.
The disc itself is well produced. Considering that the movie is put out by Paramount, I expected just a bare-bones disc. Features include a commentary by the director Kathryn Bigelow, and the standard “making of” extras.
The 5.1 surround sound is largely unimpressive. However it does get a nice workout during a scene in which the K-19 breaks through an ice cap. The video is adequate enough for this film, you get the typical widescreen treatment. Keep in mind that this is not Lord of the Rings, there are no lush landscapes to fill the screen. This is a claustrophobic film set on a submarine.
All things considered, this is truly worthy of a rental from the casual DVD fan. If you are a fan of military movies, then this is a must have.