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K-19: The Widowmaker Reviews

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Super Reviewer

December 22, 2012
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. 
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

January 30, 2012
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.

Super Reviewer

May 14, 2007
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.

Super Reviewer

August 16, 2010
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.
Al S

Super Reviewer

February 1, 2008
Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson are electrifying. Ford gives a fearless, demanding and commanding performance. Neeson is outstanding. Some of the best and most unforgettable performances of their careers. A tremendous and exciting edge of your seat Cold War thriller. Loaded with riveting suspense, dazzling emotion, rip-roaring tension and turbo-charged thrills. A masterpiece. Director, Kathryn Bigelow has crafted her finest work as a filmmaker. An explosive, powerful, furious and exhilarating movie.

Super Reviewer

December 2, 2009
This Movie was a tiny bit boring for me, but a friend enjoyed it, as she is a Polit-Thriller Fan. I m not much in to Politic anyway. lol
Ross C

Super Reviewer

August 19, 2007
I'd forgotten I'd seen this one. It is not the action thriller that one would expect from a submarine drama. This is the true story of the first sea trials of the Soviet K-19 nuclear submarine, whose "Widowmaker" moniker refers to the many tragedies that befell the crew. Most notably a reactor meltdown where crew members sacrificed their lives to protect the rest of the crew. I'm always suspicious of American movies about the Soviets, especially ones where the lead actors don't speak with Russian accents.
Jens S

Super Reviewer

June 14, 2006
This true story of submarine events from the cold war time of the late 60s is one of the rare cases of an US movie taking an entirely Russian point of view. Which is odd, knowing Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson from countless other roles they don't seem to work as communistic military officers at first and so the movie drags on for a bit. Once the atom run sub is getting into a real mess the movie has its strongest moments, when members of the crew have to expose themselves to radiation to save the rest. In the end, the message felt kind of ambiguous to me: on the one hand it was not promoted to blindly follow orders from above and sacrificing everyone, on the other hand it was a lot about doing your duty and contained a lot of heroism and pathos. Still, worth watching, even though far from the awesomeness that's Petersen's Das Boot, the king of submarine movies.

Super Reviewer

March 24, 2008
When a nuclear submarine malfunctions, the crew has to prevent a nuclear disaster.

Super Reviewer

January 24, 2007
a little dissapointing
Jason S

Super Reviewer

January 5, 2007
It was ok but I think it was outplayed by the other sumberine movie that came out that year.

Super Reviewer

February 24, 2006
[font=Arial][color=darkred]There?s a rule of thumb I?ve come to find in Hollywood, something so certain you could set your watch to it. No, not Freddie Prinze Jr. sucking up valuable space, nor the Emmy?s nominating Frasier for everything. I?m talking about man-owl Larry King, who seems to dabble in the land of film reviews. Kindly readers beware, if you see an ad for a film and it has Larry King?s salivating blurb in it, run away. Run away like the plague, like Pamplona. Just run. The only films I can remember off hand (though this theory has come true every time) are ?15 Minutes? and ?Wind Talkers?. And now there is the horrifically titled sub-sub movie?K-19: The Widowmaker?.[/color][/font]

[font=Arial][color=darkred]?K-19? should not be confused with ?K-9?, the Jim Belushi teams up with a dog to fight crime film. No this one takes place in the early 60s in the thicket of the Cold War. An opening title sequence tells us Russia has enough nuclear weapons to blow up the world two times, but the United States has enough to blow up the world six times over. Whoo! U-S-A! The maker of widows is itself a docked submarine in the Russian navy in preparation for combat. Before it even leaves the shore it is said to be cursed, having five men die already from its widow maker-y hands.[/color][/font]

[font=Arial][color=darkred]Liam Neeson is the captain of K-19 and well respected and beloved by his crew. However, Neeson is willing to put the lives of his men ahead of the agenda of the state, so the Communist government places Harrison Ford on the sub and gives him the reigns of command. Ford is a rigorous taskmaster who puts his men through countless drills and does not exactly see eye-to-eye with the more empathetic Neeson.[/color][/font]

[font=Arial][color=darkred]The story?s real turn comes about midway in, when after successfully launching a test missile above the arctic ice the nuclear core of the sub springs a leak. If something is not done to slow down the heating core the men could be vaporized in a mushroom cloud. Except that patrolling the waters nearby is a Unites States destroyer and thus would be destroyed as well, surely igniting the start of World War III.[/color][/font]

[font=Arial][color=darkred]Crew members take shifts to enter the radioactive filled core area to try and do what they can. The situation gets even direr when the men come out looking like something from a George Romero film.[/color][/font]

[font=Arial][color=darkred]?K-19?s biggest fault is fictionalizing what would have been an interesting hour block on The History Channel. The Neeson and Ford characters feel like two sides of a debate, not exactly characters. The whole movie has been Americanized with heroic proportions. Instead of compelling drama we?re left adrift with what the studio wants as a summer movie with material that should no way be associated with it. I mean, the horribly dishonest marketing campaign actually has a crew member shout ?Torpedo headed straight for us!? then shows a torpedo surging ahead. There was never a torpedo in the entire movie or a scene where they were being attacked! Somewhere in this ho-hum story is an exciting tale of the courage these men were privy to, as well as the strain of not being able to tell their friends or family about anything that happened.[/color][/font]

[font=Arial][color=darkred]Submarine movies have so many limitations to them that?s it?s hard to make a unique one anymore. Everyone knows there?ll be a point where they go beyond THE RED AREA with the needle and hear the hull ache and creak. Everyone knows they?ll have to stop an onslaught of water leaking. Everyone knows that if you talk about writing a letter to your girlfriend at home in case you die? well, the fates have it in for you. Either you love seeing these things a million times in cramp spacing or you grow tired of the expectations.[/color][/font]

[font=Arial][color=darkred]Director Kathryn Bigalow (Strange Days) manages to give it the ole college try with the long camera movements inside and the close-ups of men glaring at one another. Although technically able, Bigalow doesn?t do anything to transcend the limitations she has to work with. And while she meets her mark as a director it is neither spectacular nor worthwhile.[/color][/font]

[font=Arial][color=darkred]Ford has a horrible Russian accent he likes to flirt around with through the film. I don?t exactly know if people are supposed to like his character, being rigid and pragmatic at the expense of human life. Neeson, on the other hand, is quite capable and shines in his role. The rest of the crew alternates between Russian accents to even some Australian ones I heard.[/color][/font]

[font=Arial][color=darkred]?K-19: The Widowmaker? tells us that this story could not be told until the fall of communism, except at the end it shows a clip of the Berlin Wall coming down and the crew then gathering to finally remember their fallen comrades.[/color][/font]

[font=Arial][color=darkred]Some people just don?t have their dates right, and some people just don?t know how to take an interesting unknown slice of history and tell it well. [/color][/font][font=Arial][color=darkred]Damn you Larry King. Damn you to hell![/color][/font]

[font=Arial][color=darkred]Nate's Grade: C[/color][/font]
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

August 16, 2013
First it was "The Weight of the Water" back in 2000, then it was this submarine film in 2002, so for a while there, it seemed like Kathryn Bigelow was getting about as into films about water as her ex-husband. Granted, I don't know if "The Weight of the Water" was actually about water, seeing as how I, like most everyone else, didn't see it, but the point is that James Cameron's bizarre love of water adventures rubbed off on Bigelow, and it's a shame that the excitement that you usually get out of a Cameron film about water didn't rub off, as this film will tell you. You'd think that it should come as little surprise that this film about submarines is a little bit slow at times, but I can't tell if I'm more surprised by the fact that this film features both Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson and is still not too terribly thrilling, or by the fact that this film features both Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson and I was able to understand what the two leads were saying. In recent years, they've gotten mighty grumbly, but thankfully, I was able to grasp most of the perhaps excessive amount of dialogue in this film, probably because the performers hardly put all that much effort into sustaining a classically confusing Russian accent. Eh, Sean Connery didn't really care about the accent when he did his submarine movie, so I reckon little Indiana Jones is growing up to be just like his daddy, as well as to join forces with Qui-Gon Jinn to defend the military forces of a questionable government that aims to rule the world with its ideas. Wow, this kind of sounds more like a Lucas Arts film, only, well, a little bit better. Okay, to slow down all of the jokey complaints, this film is a good one, it's just that it's not exactly consistently gripping, which isn't to say that its problems end there.

I certainly wasn't going in expecting this film to be all that unique, but I really did not see the severity of this film's conventionalism coming, because even though the telling of this tale is inspired enough to compel, the point is that this is a seriously familiar, dare I say, generic thriller that establishes trope-heavy plotting and draws formulaic characters, and with limited subtlety. The film is pretty predictable, as its originality and subtlety issues are just too glaring, and while the final product is able to compensate enough through highlights in storytelling to compel just fine, it still tells a story which is too familiar for its own good, and takes longer to do so than it probably should. As with plenty of Kathryn Bigelow's efforts, this film, at about 138 minutes, is too long, achieving its questionable length largely through very thoughtful storytelling, but also largely through excess filler and material that, before too long, devolve into repetition that you can't help but notice, as atmospheric pacing is too steady for the film to avoid falling slave to its length. I've been joking about how slow the film is, making it sound like there are dull spells, but really, in defiance of my fears, the final product is generally, not simply quite entertaining, but compelling, yet it's a thoughtful kind of entertaining that meditates upon the flavor of this thriller, and such steadiness has a tendency to also give you time to think about how overlong and formulaic things are. On top of that, all of this steadiness also gives you a chance to meditate upon the film's natural shortcomings, which are rather considerable, because even though this film's story concept is obviously meaty enough for a rewarding interpretation to be made, the reason why padding is such a big problem is because this subject matter is kind of minimalist, with material limitations that could very well mean underwhelmingness for this film. Sure, the final product ultimately achieves a rewarding state, but basically by some kind of a miracle, because the blows to momentum are considerable, and momentum is pretty thin to begin with, thus making for a film that could have been strong and comes close to collapse into underwhelmingness. Of course, again, that collapse never comes, because no matter how thin the project may be concept, or how flawed the project may be in execution, it offers much to keep you compelled, even within such light-seeming aspect as score work.

I was personally more excited about seeing this film because it was one of the few occasions in which Jeff Cronenweth was able to escape from the David Fincher, but Cronenweth doesn't exactly offer the eye candy that he gave you in something like "Fight Club" (Well, it is one of the best-looking films ever, so it's not like had all that reasonable of a standard to live up to), so the person who most delivers on an artistic level is Klaus Badelt, whose score is, like the film itself, formulaic and, in some areas, rather thin in weight, but stronger than expected, boasting a subtle color that adds to entertainment value, if not dramatic effectiveness, which is perhaps more anchored by the performances. Sure, we can go on and on joking about the dodgy Russian accents, but this is still a strong cast, and one who delivers when they need to, flavoring up decent chemistry with subtly striking dramatic layers that, when really celebrated, breathe a lot of life into the human of the film that compensates for issues within formulaic characterization. The film offers strong musicality and acting, but quite frankly, there's not much to praise outside of that, and even then, it's not like the score and performances are all that outstanding, thus the final product has only so much to defend it from underwhelmingness that looms, even on paper. Of course, the film wouldn't be as rewarding as it ultimately is if it didn't at least have some fair deal of weight to its subject matter, and as sure as Jeff Cronenweth is a great cinematographer only when working with David Fincher, no matter how familiar or minimalist this thriller may be, it has a certain depth to it, enough so for compellingness to be a possibility that is, in fact, explored, even within Christopher Kyle's script, which is flawed, sure, but has its share of sharp areas. Many complain about the film's liberties with the true story it tells, and sure, there's something rather bothersome about the film's being intentionally inaccurate, but the liberties allow the film the opportunity to flesh out its mythology and depth, and it does not squander this opportunity, featuring characterization that is formulaic, but compensates for its expository limitations through a subtly extensive building of the characters, conflicts and depth that proves to be intriguing in the long run. Perhaps the Kyle stands to be more fleshed out, or at least more exploratory of less formulaic beats, but he doesn't let the film slow down too much, occupying a 138-minute runtime with an adequate degree of meaty material, brought to life by Kathryn Bigelow's inspired, if somewhat overambitious direction, which has its questionable areas, but establishes a rather potent atmosphere that keeps entertainment value up, until broken by heights in tension and drama that are milked enough to compel quite a bit through all of the hiccups in storytelling. The film boasts a fair deal of considerable flaws and only so many strengths, but its highlights end up going a long way in soaking up intrigue about as much as it can be, being entertaining and engaging enough to cut through the shortcomings and rise from the cold waters of underwhelmingness to a pretty rewarding point.

Upon surfacing from this venture, your investment might find itself shaken enough by generic storytelling, an excessive length and a problematically minimalist story concept for underwhelmingness to stand as a serious threat, but through lively score work, engaging performances, generally well-rounded writing and thoughtful direction, - which sustains anything from entertainment value to tension, if not dramatic resonance - underwhelmingness is challenged enough for "K-19: The Widowmaker" to stand as a consistently intriguing and reasonably rewarding submarine thriller.

3/5 - Good
Curt C

Super Reviewer

April 14, 2006
Generic Hollywood pap. Fun IMDB fact: Upon reading the film's script, the surviving crewmembers were so incensed that they sent an open letter to Ford, Bigelow, Whitaker, and Jaffe, expressing their dismay. The details they protested? Pretty much everything. I don't blame them.
Henrik S

Super Reviewer

November 12, 2007
I am a big fan of submarine movies, so I was really looking forward to this one. There is something about the claustrophobic environment of a submarine diving ever so deep into its own peril that intrigues me. With old-time favourite Harrison Ford at the helm, and Liam Neeson to support, I though I was in for a treat. While this movie is not a bad one it is far from spectacular or particulary entertaining. The movie is based on a true story, but that does not make it any more interesting. I read that the "survivors" of the real-life incident involving the K-19 watched the movie adn were amused to which amount it was "hollywoodized" and that is exactly why I did not like this film very much. It is painfully formulaic and the whole movie follows the same conceptual rhythm of Problem (cue dramatic music), despair (cue even more dramatic music and Ford's worried face), solution in sight (cue hopeful music), solution found (cue American heroes are all over us music), repeat, repeat, repeat, meh. The movie feels stale and very episodic and after a dozen of "incidents" you know, this one is not going anywhere. I understand, that the screenwriters were "limited" by what really happened, but the direction and artwork could have made this movie interesting, think about "Das Boot", which celebrates the partially tiresome and haunting journey in the endless ocean with brilliance and never gets boring or tedious.

Another thing that really annoyed me, were the fake Russian accents, for god's sake, in between the movie was so cheesy (see musical cues above) and the accents so silly that I felt like watching a Carry On film. Either let the actors speak American or Russian (or cast Russian actors in the first place) but this was like a muppet show, seeing Ford and Neeson speaking with Russian accents was hilariously funny, and that is not what I am looking for in what is suppose to be a dense cold war thriller. The supporting cast is surprisingly good, Ackland is always great to behold and Sarsgaard makes a good effort here as well.

All in all, a medicore and formulaic, stale and dull submarine movie, which only earned it's 2.5 stars because of Harrison Ford, who does a good job here, as usual.

September 17, 2012
K-19 actually feels like a true story, partly because it is not as exciting or eventful as a fictional submarine movie like The Hunt For Red October. The acting is quality and there are moments of emotional intensity, but it feels long and does not deliver the level of excitement I was hoping for. It would have been nice to have more background on Harrison Ford's character might better clarify his orders and decision making later in the movie. Liam Neeson and Harrison Ford are both great in their contrasting roles. They both build strong characters that define the movie. Peter Sarsgaard also delivers an admirable performance as the unsure and inexperience nuclear engineer of the ship. I liked how the cast uses Russian accents, it was a nice touch to more fully immerse the viewer and constantly remind you these are Russians. The incident is exciting at first but it drags and never regains the excitement. The end of the story may be based on a true story but it is heavy and not very fulfilling.
July 18, 2007
This is a good film about a major catasrophey that could of happened during the Cold War. When something happens on a nuclear Russian Ship that could have a nuclear meltdown and cause destrcution for both U.S. and Russia. Also great performances by Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson. I give this film a 10 out of 10.
April 6, 2011
An interesting story that is well filmed, but much like the Russian accents, the tone & pacing are inconsistent. Not a bad movie, yet it fails to fully invest the viewer in the weight of the situations. We've seen a lot of these plot points before in other submarine movies that were better able to provide palpable tension & give the viewer a more satisfying experience. Can't recommend.
June 11, 2010
Great acting, a boring story. I know the movie is portraying a real event. But after reading a bit about the real story, they took so many liberties with the story. I think they could have made it better.
February 9, 2009
K19: The Window Cleaner!!!!

All I can say about this movie is that a documentary which I believe there was one would have gotten more stars than this movie.
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