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Inspired by real events. At the height of the Cold War in 1961,Captain Mikhail Polenin (Liam Neeson) is replaced by Captain Alexei Vostrikov (Harrison Ford) as commander of nuclear sub K-19, when the Soviet leadership decides he isnít readying their flagship sub fast enough for her maiden voyage. Remaining on board as executive officer, Polenin clashes with Vostrikov repeatedly. After the successful launch of a test missile, K-19 receives orders to take its position off the US coastline between Washington and New York. Unaware that the submarine has been damaged, Vostrikov obeys and as they near their destination, the atomic reactorís cooling system springs a leak threatening to set off missile warheads, which in turn could trigger World War III.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If you laid all the WWII movies end to end, by now youíd be watching movies for as long as the war itself. And still they come: and still weíre watching stories of extraordinary courage, of hellish conditions, of men taken to the brink and beyond, of hideous anguish and horrible deaths. And still the wars go on. And still the Hollywood studios cast famous stars to play commanding officers of foreign powers, speaking American with a Russian accent to diddle us into fantasising that they are actually speaking Russian, but we can understand, via the magic of cinema. It says something for the producers that they donít trust their audience to come unless itís done like this. Or, if theyíre right, it says something about their audience. So while I sit there thinking how much more powerful and engaging this film would be with actors (not stars) speaking their native language Ė and thus delivering through the nuance of that language all the cultural and personal resonances of their world Ė others are finding it easier to consume, not having to read the subtitles. No pain, no gain, I say. That aside, Kathryn Bigelow has made a fearsome film of an incident which took the world uncomfortably close to a nuclear war just when I was getting into my teenage stride. Itís a credit to the stars that they retain enough of our credulity to make the film effective, gripping and even thought provoking, considering so much of the thinking is already done for us. Technically excellent, K-19 pings with memories of the Cold War and reminds us of manís stupidity as well as his capacity for nobility. But WWIII is still on the cards.

Special Features reviewed by Craig Miller:
Although it is not a highly detailed extras package, the special features included are all pretty well produced and, while lacking any real life, certainly add background information and insights into the film itself.

The three featurettes run for a little over 20 minutes in total and focus on aspects of the film such as the visual effects, the make-up techniques used, research and technical details needed to put the film together. They are short and struggle for depth. The Ďmaking ofí feature is simply a studio promo piece and is interspersed with cast /crew interviews and behind the scenes footage.†

In the commentary, Bigelow and Cronenweth talk about the experience, locations, history, pre-production and trips to Moscow. However, it is not ideal for those who drift off easily, as they are rather unanimated.

Published September 4, 2003

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(US) - 2002

CAST: Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Peter Sarsgaard, Joss Ackland, John Shrapnel, Donald Sumpter

DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow

SCRIPT: Christopher Kyle

RUNNING TIME: 132 minutes

PRESENTATION: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 16:9 Enhanced, 5.1 Dolby Digital

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with director Kathryn Bigelow and cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, The making of K-19: The Widowmaker, Exploring the craft: make-up techniques featurette, Breaching the hull featurette, Itís in the detail featurette, Theatrical trailer.


DVD RELEASE: (retail) September 11, 2003, (rental) April 25, 2003

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