No Nukes is Good Nukes
K-19 The Widowmaker
Review by Ross Anthony

In the film's prologue we learn that this story couldn't be told for 28 years. Perhaps one reason is that American's wouldn't be ready to watch it. 1961, Mikhail Polenin (Liam Neeson) and Alexei Vostrikov (Harrison Ford) captain Russia's first nuclear submarine. With a cold war to win and perhaps a planet to preserve, we watch and root for the Soviets. "Enemy at the Gates" also successfully captured American sympathies for the K-19 The Widowmakersupposed enemy. I applaud these films. Perhaps greater insight into the humanity of the enemy will reduce any one country's interests in controlling and or killing them. In any event, peace is certainly less expensive and less dangerous too. Okay, enough peace talk - back to the picture.

Generally speaking, the film commands the screen fairly well, despite the now cliché nuclear launch drill opening and even despite a rather floundering climax. Liam and Ford are powerful complements.

Not interested in the many shortcomings of the ill-prepared K-19, Moscow needs the sub to dive, rise and launch its cargo so that the Americans won't feel over-confident in the stockpile race.

Mikhail (Neeson) puts the crew (which he refers to as family) above the mission. Alexei's (Ford's) unwavering allegiance to the state above all, brings the ship and crew over and over again into harm's way, "We deliver or we drown!" Though it would have been easy, the script steers a much more interesting course than simply pitting Mikhail against Alexei. Their interaction is much more complex and fluid throughout the tension. The less than spectacular computer effects leave the real drama to that tension. Further, the radiation scenes are quite gripping; they choked me up until my throat ached. While a cheesy love story is only hinted at, mostly, this is a boat full of men. Some strong resolution, then a cool little epilogue that goes a little long.

All in all, impressive and powerful, but lacking that special something to make it a must see.

For interiors, ten submarine compartments were built. And since the actual K-19 lies in a Russian ship graveyard, poisonous and decaying, a smaller Russian sub then on display at St. Petersburg, Florida was used. Producer Sighvatsson says, "It became very confusing, when I told people on the phone I was in St. Petersburg, they never knew if I was in Florida ... or Russia."

  • K-19 The Widowmaker. Copyright © 2002. Rated PG-13.
  • Starring Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Peter Sarsgaard.
  • Directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
  • Screenplay by Christopher Kyle, Story by Louis Nowra.
  • Produced by Kathryn Bigelow at Intermedia/IMF/Nationa Geographic/Paramount.

Grade..........................B+ (Strong)

Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:06:13 PDT