Sunday, July 21, 2002

K-19: The Widowmaker (IMDB) (Netflix)
This is a bit of a rarity, a Hollywood film without any American characters or written from an American perspective, an action film from a female director (Kathryn Bigelow), and Harrison Ford playing a not-particularly likeable character (In What Lies Beneath they played up his usual good-guy persona to set up the reversal later). Inspired by a true story, K-19 is a gremlin-infested Soviet submarine rushed into service during the Cold War, and Ford is the kick-ass-and-take-names captain sent to replace the fatherly Liam Neeson, who's staying on the boat to help out. That's not a recipe for teamwork, and it seems that Ford's overwhelming sense of duty to the Motherland is writing checks his untested boat can't cash.

There's enough foreshadowing of doom to cover the ocean they sail in, but the movie rises slightly above the diminished expectations set by one of the worst trailers made in years. The key word, however, is "slightly." The exchanges between Ford and Neeson are trite, and even though K-19's based on a true story, Crimson Tide covered a lot of this ground with more verve. On the other hand, there's some decent character development over the course of the movie and a pretty damning indictment of the Soviet approach to management (create an environment destined to fail, then when it does, punish the people who were forced to use it). It's ultimately about why real heroes make sacrifices, not for God and Country, but for the guy in the next bunk.