Liam Neeson pretends to know nothing about the Ex-Lax in the coffee.
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Written by: Louis Nowra & Christopher Kyle
Harrison Ford - Captain Alexei Vostrikov
Liam Neeson - Captain Mikhail Polenin Peter
Sam Spruell - Dimitri Nevsky
Peter Stebbings - Kuryshev
Peter Sarsgaard - Vadim Radtchenko
Christian Camargo - Pavel Loktev
Joss Ackland - Marshal Zelentsov
Roman Podhora - Lapinsh
Sam Redford - Vasily Mishin
John Shrapnel - Admiral Bratyeev
Donal Sumpter - Dr. Savran
Steve Nicolson - Yuri Demichev
Ravil Issyanov - Igor Suslov
Tim Woodward - Konstantin Partonov
Lex Shrapnel - Mikhail Kornilov
“You are a hero. You are all heroes.”
To sum up: It's 1961 and we're on the Soviet Union's first nuclear
powered submarine. You just know everything's gonna run smoothly.
Two weathered old men who have not seen each other
for years slowly approach one another. They are Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson
and I suspect that this is how they both look without their make-up.
They were both Soviet Naval Captains and the
mission that they shared was taking out the first Soviet nuclear powered
submarine to the Arctic Circle and launch a dummy nuclear warhead. A
mission in which the new nuclear reactor nearly went critical and killed them
They are a contrast of styles. Ford, the old
hardliner whose father fought in the Soviet Revolution and later died in the gulag.
Neeson, the loving captain that is more of a father-figure to his crew. Ford,
whose loyalty is toward the State and the Mother Country. Neeson, whose loyalty
is to his men, whom he loves. Ford, who drills the crew to the brink of
madness so they can be ready to go to the edge and beyond when the time comes.
Neeson, who is against risking the crew unnecessarily for the sake of
efficiency. Naturally, they are going to clash.
This is a film that has the word nuclear in it. As
a result, you know that everything is going to go to hell and the film
reinforces that impending point of view from the beginning. They are rushed to
launch on schedule. They can't get the right parts. The boat's leaky. The head
nuclear engineer is found drunk on duty and is replaced with a rookie fresh
out of the academy. The doctor dies in an accident and is replaced with a
non-professional. The bottle to launch the ship doesn't break when it hits the
sub, sending murmurs of "we're cursed" running through the crew.
Indeed, we are told that 10 people have died and the ship hasn't even left the
dock yet. And as the ship is launched from dock yards that I swear look just
like West Virginia, doom is a thick, palpatable cloud that not only hangs over the crew
but among them.
Is the reactor going to go critical? Of course. You
would know this even if you haven't seen the trailers for the film. The real
trick of the film is to make the journey interesting. And for the most part it
The film would have been better if it could have
avoided a few of the typical clichés that for some reason are always dragged
into military films. Do ya think there's gonna be someone on the ship with a fiancé?
You bet! He might as well say, "Hi. Here's a picture of my girlfriend.
Would someone shoot me now since I have no chance of making it out of this
Even the clash between the two captains is a cliché
in itself, but it turns out that this element of the story is one of the best
handled aspects of the film. Neither character is black and white. There are no
"good guy" "bad guy" divisions here. Both are right, both
are wrong, and both grow and learn to respect each other.
Harrison Ford gives one of his best performances
in a while as the stubborn captain who needs to learn to care about his crew.
Even with his on again off again Russian accent, it's a joy to watch the subtleties
of his performance, especially during his realization that the ship is in real
danger and there's not much that can be done. He says everything with his eyes
that he cannot say out loud and it is an impressive reminder of how good he can
be when he wants to.
Liam Neeson, with a more solid accent, also fares
well. He stands toe to toe with Ford producing a solid contrast to his more
famous co-star. Their confrontations are the center of the film. Neither is
compromised for the sake of the other and it makes for compelling movie
The film is ultimately smart enough to put enough
of a twist on the clichés that it is entertaining and in the end, you're not
completely certain who is going to live and who will die.
This is a good submarine film. It is appropriately
effective at demonstrating the fragile claustrophobia of a submarine with its
knocks, pings, and leaks while in the vast depths of the ocean.
It also is good at producing sympathy for the
people involved. Although I did not forget that these were people that were
sworn to uphold Communism, I did care about what happened to the crew and
their ultimate fate.
As a sucker for submarine movies, I can recommend
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