K-19 The Widowmaker

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Movie Review by Nigel A. Messenger

Starring: Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Peter Sarsgaard, Joss Ackland, Tim Woodward
Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Set in the time of the cold war between the West and the Soviet Union, K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER tells the story of a Russian nuclear submarine headed for disaster but from an entirely Russian perspective.

Harrison Ford plays the part of Captain Alexei Vostrikov who is ordered by Moscow to take command of K-19 from its Captain (Liam Neeson) and put the sub and its crew through a series of gruelling tasks taking the people as well as the physical integrity of the sub to is limits.

The tests culminate in the firing of a test missile, which is successful however it’s at this point that the K-19’s luck runs out. Under orders to continue their mission deep into American waters the sub’s nuclear reactor develops a fault resulting in near meltdown.

The crew attempt to avert disaster but find they are ill equipped with adequate safety equipment and little knowledge of the workings of a nuclear reactor. As the crew loses lives due to radioactive exposure Captain Vostrikov who has been deeply resented and disliked because of his harsh orders begins to form his own bond with his crew and their previous captain as he desperately tries to save the crew and the submarine in the face of Moscow’s harsh military command having little regard for the lives of those on board the K-19.

K-19 is based on real-life events that took place in 1961 and the filmmakers did extensive research of these events and made the movie with the cooperation of the Russian authorities.

I really don’t know how accurate the film is or how much dramatic licence was taken for the sake of a screen presentation, but even allowing for some tidying up of the story to succinctly get across the events K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER is still a very powerful and thought provoking movie, showing the bravery of the men of the K-19 to audiences in countries where at the time of the cold war would have considered the Soviet Union ‘the enemy’. The movie represents the communist regime as the bad guys and submarine crew as simply being loyal to their country whilst still being heroes and averting a worldwide disaster.

K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER has found a way of presenting an historical event to mass-market audiences and has done so in the context of a very well made movie.

5 out of 6 stars