K-19: The Widowmaker Reviews
As with most submarine thrillers, K-19: The Widowmaker incurs a slow pace. The issue with it is what comes into play with the characters. In cases such as Das Boot, the story is important not for its characters but because of the camaraderie they share as they do their part for their country. With The Hunt for Red October or Crimson Tide, it is more about the nature of the characters and their relationships as well as political context. And these elements always play out against the backdrop of a bigger picture in relation to the Submarine mission. With K-19: The Widowmaker, the feel is different. The characters on the titular Submarine are not that interesting with the exception of Captain 2nd Rank Alexei Vostrikov and Captain 3rd Rank Mikhail "Misha" Polenin. The film seems to put quite a bit of emphasis behind them but the screen time they receive is around as much as any other actor in the cast playing whatever role, so the film goes for the widespread camaraderie angle but fails to hit as well as Das Boot. But the other problem is that the story is a lot less interesting. The crew of the titular K-19 soviet Submarine are taking it out simply on a test run and what they encounter on the submarine is mostly about man vs machine, and so there is not that much tension as the risk of the characters dying at any moment is far less severe than it would be if they were facing enemy submarines. The radiation leak in the submarine and the battle the Soviet Soldiers face with their own submarine becomes interesting and gives the film its edge, but in actual fact the general plot of the film fails to ignite too much spirit as it is less about being a submarine thriller and more of a legitimate drama story about those affected by the radiation issues on the K-19 and the commanding officers faced with losing their comrades. Essentially, the story in K-19 is told well, but it is just far from being the most interesting one, and when this comes into play with the slow pace of the film is ends up making a large impact on the entire feature.
All in all, I find that K-19: The Widowmaker is not an ideal submarine thriller film for me. I find that the amalgamation of camaraderie between the soldiers on the submarine teamed up with an engaging mission for the same people usually makes a good film, but the premise is just not that engaging this time and is a lot more about the characters. Unfortunately, the characters in this film are not as engaging as the interesting two are played off with small quantities of screen time. So K-19: The Widowmaker failed to appeal to me in terms of being a submarine thrilleror a well-focused character oriented film.
But I will admit that K-19: The Widowmaker had many positive virtues to it. The camaraderie concept gradually develops as a connection beween the soldiers begins to show. Admittedly, there is some good heart in the story because the characters begin to become more relevant and important in narrative focus, and as that begins to develop, the film grows in quality. The characters of the film progressively become more interesting as the tension rises and viewers see more and more into who Alexei Vostrikov and Mikhail "Misha" Polenin are. While the film fails to focus on them enough, it has some good moments of conveying the emotional distress and political tension of the story. I can't say for sure how historically accurate it is, but I will admit that during the few moments where the film puts particular emphasis on the aforementioned protagonists of the tale, K-19: The Widowmaker comes out shining. This is largely because of the performances of Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, but the quality of the film's moments involving them are of serious benefit to the feature.
From a technical standpoint, K-19: The Widowmaker hits the mark. While there isn't all that many exterior shots of the submarine, the large budget of the film means that it captures the interior aspects excellently. The cinematography is appropriately close up and personal as well as being edited very well against the backdrop of a strong musical score, and all the characters are decked out in great costumes as well. The entire story feels easily genuine because of the atmosphere and the visual style, and there are a few moments where the scenery is used excellently even though they are not used to their full potential. There is no denying that everything comes off as convincing from a technical standpoint, and so the firm skill that Kathryn Bigelow continues to reveal as a film director is present in K-19: The Widowmaker.
But like I said, two of the most essential elements in K-19: The Widowmaker are the performances of Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson.
Harrison Ford is just excellent as Captain 2nd Rank Alexei Vostrikov, Commanding Officer. In one of his best performances in a long while, Harrison Ford nails the role by taking a step back and putting strong focus on what makes the character great. He puts a lot of strength into the part with natural dramatic charisma by just bringing his own sense of tense atmosphere to the part. He is constantly involved in the role without having to force anything as he delivers all his lines with a subtle but confident accent and an organic sense of tension. Harrison Ford easily steps into his role in K-19: The Widowmaker which is excellent because it makes him an ideal lead. He combines both wisdom and confidence for the part which he is able to use to fuel his performance naturally, and that gives it an effective driving force. He doesn't have to act too hard to get into the part because it all comes to him easily, so K-19: The Widowmaker does serve as a strong reminder of Harrison Ford's easy acting talents.
Liam Neeson is also exceptional. Taking on the role of Captain 3rd Rank Mikhail "Misha" Polenin, Executive Officer, Liam Neeson makes a memorable presence in K-19: The Widowmaker. He commands the role with a lot of power because his line articulation is firm and he delivers all his words with impeccable dramatic strength. He stands confident in the role and says every word with incredible dramatic charisma. He takes a stand in K-19: The Widowmaker and performs incredibly well, and you can honestly expect nothing less from him. He stands evenly with Harrison Ford in terms of talent and accent articulation, and the two of them share a powerful chemistry as well.
So K-19: The Widowmaker benefits from strong performances from Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson as well as typically atmospheric direction from Kathryn Bigelow, but it isn't enough to compensate for the film's slow pace and unengaging story.