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K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)



Average Rating: 6.1/10
Reviews Counted: 168
Fresh: 101 | Rotten: 67

A gripping drama even though the filmmakers have taken liberties with the facts.


Average Rating: 6.1/10
Critic Reviews: 37
Fresh: 22 | Rotten: 15

A gripping drama even though the filmmakers have taken liberties with the facts.



liked it
Average Rating: 3/5
User Ratings: 45,314

My Rating

Movie Info

A real-life historical incident becomes the basis for this military thriller from director Kathryn Bigelow that's reminiscent of such submarine dramas as Das Boot (1981), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Crimson Tide (1995), and U-571 (2000). Harrison Ford stars as Captain Alexi Vostrikov, a Russian naval officer who's being given command of the Soviet Union's first nuclear submarine, K-19, at the height of the Cold War in 1961. The vessel's previous commander, Captain Mikhail Polenin (Liam

Dec 10, 2002


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All Critics (183) | Top Critics (42) | Fresh (101) | Rotten (67) | DVD (25)

Why did movie moguls think that this was the right moment for a tale of unflinching loyalty to the Soviet Union?

March 5, 2013 Full Review Source: The New Republic
The New Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

What could have been a movie packed with historical significance and nail-gnawing underwater tension ends up little more than a lumbering public-service announcement for the human spirit.

July 25, 2002
New York Observer
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Bigelow hits all her marks and more within the narrow parameters.

July 23, 2002 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
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[A] really strong work from start to finish.

July 22, 2002 Full Review Source: Ebert & Roeper
Ebert & Roeper
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More intellectually scary than dramatically involving.

July 19, 2002
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

...takes its place among a small group of undersea motion pictures. Unfortunately, it takes its place at the end of the line.

May 7, 2010 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

A brutally effective, brilliantly constructed dramatic thriller.

February 3, 2006 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

K-19 makes an American audience care about Communists trapped between a rock and a hard place deep beneath the sea.

December 6, 2004
Looking Closer

Kathryn Bigelow's K-19 sinks to a watery grave.

May 19, 2004 Full Review Source: City Pages, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Manages to find another way to become a big-budget Hollywood summer production that shamelessly panders to the lowest common denominator.

January 7, 2004 Full Review Source:

... A taut, skillfully-executed thriller anchored by two rock-solid leading men.

January 6, 2004 Full Review Source: Star-Democrat (Easton, MD)
Star-Democrat (Easton, MD)

Occasionally trying on accents that are reminiscent of a 'Rocky and Bullwinkle' cartoon, Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson have rarely been saddled with such awkward roles.

January 4, 2004 Full Review

O sotaque de Ford é inconstante e Bigelow tenta forēar demais o drama. Vale pela história.

July 25, 2003
Cinema em Cena

It's a military maxim that there is no room for egos on a submarine. Which prompts the question if there's any more room for another military movie set below the waves?

March 13, 2003 Full Review Source: RTE Interactive (Dublin, Ireland)

This movie has all the hallmarks of a well-made, dramatic film that takes itself just a little too seriously.

February 8, 2003 Full Review Source: Film Quips Online
Film Quips Online

The movie is solidly paced and well acted but lacks the emotional connection that might have made it a classic.

January 3, 2003

A cold war thriller told from the Russian point of view which gives it the appearance of having more credibility and dark truth than if this were an American story.

December 8, 2002 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

Soviet submarine drama tells a great true story, but lacks depth.

November 7, 2002 Full Review Source: Netflix

There's a distance and lack of focus. Too many scenes descend into guys randomly barking complex technical terms at each other.

November 3, 2002

... may bear a few scars of its Hollywood production, but it's an effecting and hard-hitting drama.

November 2, 2002 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

'Interesante y disfrutable trabajo gracias a que prescinde del clįsico elemento estadounidense patriotero y manipulador.'

October 29, 2002 Full Review Source: Moviola | Comment (1)

An adventure that respects its audience, and does a fine old genre proud.

October 15, 2002 Full Review Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati Enquirer

K-19 exploits our substantial collective fear of nuclear holocaust to generate cheap Hollywood tension.

September 30, 2002
Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)

The movie's true hero -- or heroine -- is Bigelow, who once again proves herself one of the very best action directors around.

September 26, 2002 Full Review Source:

Audience Reviews for K-19: The Widowmaker

Captain Alexei Vostrikov: We deliver, or we drown. 

"Fate has found its hero."

To be honest, I didn't expect a movie half as good as the one I got from K-19: The Widowmaker. This is an extremely underrated film from a great director in Kathryn Bigelow and boasts a variety of good performances. The fact that this movie is so unknown and also unappreciated stuns me to a degree. This film is powerful, suspenseful, entertaining, and well made in every aspect. The movie looks good, it sounds good, it's well acted, well paced. What more could we really ask for from a submarine movie.

K-19 is a new Soviet submarine that has new technology on it that the Soviets believe will give them the upper hand in the Cold war. It's a nuclear reactor. The ship isn't ready to go out though, and when the captain of the sub(Liam Neeson) says that, he is relieved of duty by another captain(Harrison Ford). The two knock heads quite a few time on the mission, especially when things begin to go from bad to worse. The movie has an undeniable human element at work that many movies lack or just don't even try to accomplish. 

The reviews for this movie are, to put lightly, luke warm. Most of the time, I can see why some wouldn't like a movie that I find impressive, but this is one of those rare occasions where I just can't come to grips with it. Negative reviews speak of the movie putting too much emphasis on the human element of the story. It's too dramatic, and maybe too feel good in the end. Are we so out of touch with humanity that we would criticize a movie like this for including the most important part of any story? None of these critics argue that the movie isn't well made, but they will argue that it becomes too focused on the human element. Yeah, like that wasn't important to the actual people when it was taking place. Okay, I'm done ranting.

Despite some negativity in the reviews, I implore you to give this one a shot. It's a movie that will has power, while still informing on a situation in history that few people actually know about. I'm not saying that this is one of the best movies ever made, but it is one that I enjoyed highly and one I think a lot of other people would enjoy, if they give it a chance. 
December 22, 2012
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

I'm ashamed to say that I've always passed this film of as being just another Submarine film full of the usual cliches no doubt, and so have never bothered with it. A foolish mistake as K-19 is a great film, full of drama and suspense but never over the top and, as I mentioned before, without cliched acting/writing/story. Apparently based on true events, it's great that this story has finally been told as it is a heartwarming and inspirational one - it's also not very often that cold war stories are told from the Russian side - not least by an American, so it was also refreshing. Just ignore the dodgy Russian accents..again.
January 30, 2012

Super Reviewer

What I thought would be a mediocre sub flick, turned out to be so much more. The Academy Award for Best Director that Kathryn Bigelow received last year, is well-deserved in the least. For two out of two war films I've seen by her now, that have been of very high calibre. Much of the credit, however, also goes to to Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson. The dignity and effort that they invest into their roles is highly appraisable, and every second they're on screen is a second of pure awe and joy. It's a little scary also to think how close we really were to World War III, and this film illustrates that perfectly. The only beef I had with it was the horrible russian accents. Too fake-sounding to be bought and believed. Other than that though, it's a splendid piece of cinema. Very suspenseful throughout and with a tight and well-paced script. Certainly not for the claustrophobic, but if you're into the sub-genre (no pun intended), you might wanna give it a go.
March 10, 2011
Mike S

Super Reviewer

K-19 is a masterful submarine film. No such sub film since Das Boot conveys a sense of drama and helplessness like K-19. Kathryn Bigelow has assembled a great cast of actors here, and Harrison Ford delivers one of his greatest performances since the 1980's. Bigelow's directing is flawless, the tension on screen unfolds so well in her hands. K-19 Is a terrific film and the cast make this film soar. A film filled with suspense, tension, thrills and drama, this is one of the best since Wolfgang Peterson's Das Boot. Maybe not as masterful, but this film heads into the right direction. It may be viewed in the years to come as a great submarine film. Because it really is. A film thats seriously underrated, K-19 may find an audience in the future. Bigelow displays great skills in telling a great story, and delivered a monumental film with K-19.
August 18, 2010
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

    1. Captain Alexei Vostrikov: We will not fail!
    – Submitted by Timofey P (8 months ago)
    1. Mikhail Polenin: I am slightly robotic.
    – Submitted by Jesse K (14 months ago)
View all quotes (2)

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