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K-19: The Widowmaker

K-19: The Widowmaker

5.0 1
Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Cast: Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Peter Sarsgaard


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A real-life historical incident becomes the basis for this military thriller from director Kathryn Bigelow that's reminiscent of such submarine dramas as Das Boot (1981), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Crimson Tide (1995), and U-571 (2000). Harrison Ford stars as Captain Alexi Vostrikov, a Russian naval officer who's being given command


A real-life historical incident becomes the basis for this military thriller from director Kathryn Bigelow that's reminiscent of such submarine dramas as Das Boot (1981), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Crimson Tide (1995), and U-571 (2000). Harrison Ford stars as Captain Alexi Vostrikov, a Russian naval officer who's being given command of the Soviet Union's first nuclear submarine, K-19, at the height of the Cold War in 1961. The vessel's previous commander, Captain Mikhail Polenin (Liam Neeson) has been demoted to executive officer following a botched test and his outspoken assertions that the flagship is not yet ready for deployment, but he curbs his resentment and resolves to serve his new superior well. Polenin's concerns are well founded: parts are not yet installed, equipment is missing, and the ship's doctor is killed in an auto mishap. Political pressure forces Vostrikov to sail his crew into the North Atlantic anyway, for a missile fire test that serves as a warning to the U.S. that its enemy is now its technological equal. The test is a success, but a disastrous leak in the K-19's reactor cooling system soon threatens to create enough heat to detonate the craft's nuclear payload -- which would certainly be mistaken for the first salvo in a worldwide atomic exchange and spark the beginning of World War III. With no other option, Vostrikov orders his men to repair the damage in ten-minute shifts, irradiating them hopelessly. The conflict between the seemingly bureaucratic Communist Vostrikov and the more humane Polenin escalates, until a surprising twist reveals where both officers' loyalties truly lie.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
An extraordinarily tense Cold War drama based on real-life events, K-19 gives aging but still formidable leading man Harrison Ford one of his most challenging roles in years. He plays tight-lipped Russian naval officer Alexei Vostrikov, who assumes command of the Soviet Union’s newest nuclear submarine, the K-19, and heads for American territorial waters. When the nuclear reactor begins leaking, Vostrikov refuses the entreaties of junior officer Mikhail Polenin (Liam Neeson) to seek help from the Americans, opting instead to make repairs that definitely will claim the lives of many crewmen and possibly prove fruitless in the end. Ford has been more of a crowd-pleaser as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, but this role tests his mettle in a way few others have done. Grim and taciturn, his Vostrikov places duty and honor above safety, even as he privately agonizes over the human cost of his decisions. He’s perfectly matched by Neeson, portraying a voluble and more pragmatic seaman unwilling to consign his shipmates to a watery grave to satisfy the captain’s lofty ideals. Director Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break) skillfully captures the claustrophobic terror that seizes men trapped in a steel coffin below the sea, and she holds her actors on short leashes to restrain their melodramatic impulses. The script offers plausible explanations for the calamities that befall K-19: shoddy construction, insufficient supplies, and human error. Hyper-realistic and unrelentingly suspenseful, K-19 is one of 2002’s most absorbing dramas. Bigelow supplies an incisive commentary for the DVD, which also includes a making-of documentary, and three behind-the-scenes featurettes.
All Movie Guide - Karl Williams
A tightly paced and efficiently performed submarine thriller about which there is absolutely nothing original save the fact that the protagonists are Russian, this epic-scale production will satisfy only those who have never seen any other military suspense drama set aboard a submersible. For those who have seen such films as Crimson Tide (1995), U-571 (2000), Das Boot (1981), The Hunt for Red October (1990) and a host of other noble men-trapped-in-tin-cans-below-the-sea nail biters, K-19: The Widowmaker (2002) will feel like a rehash at best. Despite its obvious craftsmanship, the only truly intriguing aspect of this bloated production is the science involving the boat's near-nuclear meltdown and the sacrifice that must be made by her engineers to save the rest of the crew and, potentially, the world. Talk about heightening the crisis--but none of these heroic characters are the protagonist. Instead, the audience is treated to a dog-eared soap opera involving the bruised feelings of a demoted skipper (Liam Neeson) and his conflict with a hard-headed political appointee (Harrison Ford), whose determination and bullish single-mindedness of purpose are never explained, leading to an unmotivated "duh!" of a character reversal that's supposed to play like a rousing, three-cheers moment. An overlong act three (the film feels as if it's about to end--and should--no less than three separate times) capped off with a cemetery coda cribbed from Schindler's List (1993) leaves the entire enterprise feeling enervated and top-heavy. K-19: The Widowmaker, in addition to its awful title, is celluloid proof of two things: that Hollywood exists solely to recycle and cannibalize itself, and that if the filmmakers haven't figured out who to root for, the audience certainly won't either.
Village Voice
Bigelow hits all her marks and more within the narrow parameters. Dennis Lim
New York Times
A tense, swift drama of mechanical catastrophe and dueling egos. A.O. Scott
Chicago Sun-Times - Roger Ebert

[Bigelow] is an expert technician who never steps wrong and is skilled at exploiting the personal qualities of Ford and Neeson to add another level of uncertainty.
Hollywood Reporter
This submarine drama earns the right to be favorably compared to Das Boot. Kirk Honeycutt

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Paramount Catalog

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Harrison Ford Captain Alexei Vostrikov
Liam Neeson Mikhail Polenin
Peter Sarsgaard Vadim Ratchenko
Joss Ackland Marshal Zelentstov
John Shrapnel Admiral Bratyeev
Donald Sumpter Dr. Savran
Tim Woodward Konstantin Partonov
Steve Nicolson Demichev
Ravil Isyanov Igor Suslov
Christian Camargo Pavel Loktev
George Anton Konstantin Poliansky
Tygh Runyan Maxim Portenko
Ingvar E. Sigurdsson Viktor Gorelov
Shawn Mathieson Stepan Komarov
Peter Stebbings Maxim Kuryshey
William Lucas Yuzef Mankevitch
Sam Spruell Actor

Technical Credits
Kathryn Bigelow Director,Producer
Marit Allen Costumes/Costume Designer
Klaus Badelt Score Composer
Moritz Borman Executive Producer
Bruce Carwardine Sound/Sound Designer
Ross Clydesdale Casting
Winship Cook Associate Producer
Jeff Cronenweth Cinematographer
Steve Danton Associate Producer,Asst. Director
Guy East Executive Producer
Ed Feldman Producer
Mali Finn Casting
Arvinder Grewal Art Director
Harrison Ford Executive Producer
Basil Iwanyk Co-producer
Steven Charles Jaffe Co-producer
Karl Juliusson Production Designer
Samara Koffler Associate Producer
Christopher Kyle Screenwriter
Carol Lavallee Set Decoration/Design
Mary Montiforte Co-producer
Walter Murch Editor
Michael Novotny Production Designer
Louis Nowra Original Story
Brent O'Connor Co-producer
Mary Selway Casting
Joni Sighvatsson Producer
Nigel Sinclair Executive Producer
Christina Smith Makeup
Christine Whitaker Producer
Mark Wolfe Co-producer


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5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an absolutely amazing movie. Words cannot give it justice. Harrison Ford gives an excellent preformance. It helps to reveal what a group of Soviet sailors sacrificed to save the world.