ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  kathryn bigelow

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  138 minutes

RELEASED  -  19 july 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  20th century fox


ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $100,000,000
k-19: the widowmaker - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from k-19: the widowmaker at

buy the dvd from k-19: the widowmaker at

a film based on true events that happened in 1961, a submarine's crew, led by the unyielding captain alexi vostrikov, races against time to prevent a nuclear disaster which threatens not only the lives of his crew, but has the potential to ignite a world war between the super powers.

20th century fox was originally a distributor on this film, but dropped its united states distribution rights.


picture from k-19: the widowmaker

picture from k-19: the widowmaker

picture from k-19: the widowmaker


three out of four possible stars

Harrison Ford has proved once again that he's a capable actor, filling the role of a dynamic submarine captain on a Russian Soviet boat, even if that role carries with it a somewhat predictable script. It's far too easy to know what's coming next in this thriller. But this flaw aside, the picture boasts an engaging crew whose fates are in the forefront of the story. And since the piece is "inspired by actual events," it might be a step in the wrong direction to comment on the film's lack surprises in the script. Despite it, the film is suspenseful and owes that aspect to each of the actors cast in a set of very unique roles.

Although their Russian names all seem to sound alike after the first few introductions, each face is quite different and there doesn't seem to be a "stock" set of characters that are found in every other movie. There's no specific clown amongst the bunch, but each character has his or her turn at making a joke. Which is a needed element, given that much of the story is so dark and serious. Although there could have even been more humor in the film, the parts that were there made sure that the movie wasn't too maudlin.

And for all his 60 years, Harrison Ford can still play the part of action hero. Whereas contemporary Michael Douglas looks and feels his years onscreen, it is still easy to cheer for Ford's character, even after a 30-year film career. And because Ford is still an impressive presence on the screen, this film, as an adrenalin filled two hours, is exciting. Though actually, the film is a little bit over two hours. Much of the film is thrill packed and moves at an incredible pace, but after the film hits the two hour mark, it seems that the editor should have done more to cut the picture down. Especially at the very end.

Without revealing what actually happens in the last frames of the film, suffice it to say that a substantial speech is made by one cast member that extends a little bit too long. It's as if the beat of the film is thrown off because of this pause. That last sequence could have been tighter and would have ended the film on a tenser note. And overall, the film could have had a few minutes cut out of it. There were a few too many intense looks from various members of the cast. Sometimes the impact of certain scenes would lessen because the characters weren't always moving at their fastest.

Granted, the picture does take place inside a cramped forty year old submarine, but there were plenty of sequences where actors were running around and bumping into things. But these fast paced sections were punctuated by downtime that extended for too long. Though these slower scenes did not detract from the performances in the film in any way. In fact, this film was blessed with a much better crop of actors than is usually present in a summer action movie. For one thing, many of the supporting actors, whose Russian names become unintelligible after awhile, became quite powerful characters solely on their screen presence.

Peter Sarsgaard, who plays "Vadim Radtchenko," a very young graduate with a degree in nuclear science. He replaces an inebriated member of the submarine crew and is put in charge of taking care of the nuclear reactor on the ship. His character goes through a dozen emotions over the course of the story and his performance is very affecting. Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, in their lead roles, share a suitable amount of screen time with their co-stars and save for a few particularly long glances from both Neeson and Ford's characters, the film really makes the rounds in allowing a large amount of actors to have their time on the screen.

As this film is a story that was "inspired by true events," it should be noted that this film had its share of lawsuits and set-backs during its inception and filming. There was more than one piece of legal action taken against the film by angry survivors of the actual incident. But after all these troubles, the filmmakers still came out with a better than average movie. In point of fact, since the film is supposed to teach the audience a little bit of history, even if that history is fictionalized somewhat, the spirit of what actually occurred is present in the film.

And it is nice to see that this picture was directed by a woman. Hollywood films, especially A-list summer blockbusters, are usually helmed by men, and director Kathryn Bigelow should be congratulated in reining in the large screen presence of Harrison Ford. Although she let a few lingering stares to slip through the editing process, much of this movie's mistakes can be foisted on the editor. The length, being too long, is the result of an editor not being zealous enough in cutting extemporaneous material. Perhaps he had Harrison Ford lurking over his shoulder, but whatever the reason, this film does not have the usual array of flaws present in an action film. It presents the story in what is essentially an entertaining way and goes about it with a little bit more brainpower than its contemporaries.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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