K-19: The Widowmaker
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K-19: The Widowmaker (BD)
Inspired by a true story, "K-19: The Widowmaker" follows Captain Alexei Vostrikov (Harrison Ford) who, at the height of the Cold Wa r, is order ed to take over command of the nuclear missile submarine K-19, pride of the Soviet Navy. His assignment: prepare the K- 19 for sea and take he r out on patrol - no matter what the cost. But problems with K-19 arise that may lead to a core meltdown and explosion that will certainly kill all aboard, and possibly trigger a nuclear war. In a daring act of her oism, Vostrikov must choos e between his orders from the Kremlin and the lives of his men.]]>
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Filled with elation they proceed to sail towards their assignment; the Eastern US Seaboard. Confident that all is well the unthinkable happens. A leak causes the reactor to overheat. The scramble to make repairs is made worse by a lack of parts and a neophyte officer with minimal knowledge of the technology. The boat and tensions heats up. A solution must be found or the reactor will burn it's way through the hull.
K-19 provides a good insight into the Soviet mindset which valued party ideology above the value of the individual. Submariners are a breed unto themselves no matter their nationality and rise above the pettiness of their indoctrination. Ford and Neeson work well together in this flick. The Russian accents are not believable but the two manage to pull it off. Not as claustrophobic as other submarine films such as "Das Boot" or "Gray Lady Down" it still represents a pretty good picture of life aboard a submarine. For aficionados of submarine movies it is worth adding to the collection.
Much to the horror of American unions, Osetian superconductor Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky (formerly Kirov) orchestra provided the soundtrack for this film when they happened to be in Washington, D.C. at the Lincoln Center for some other performance. It was a big to-do. In the end, the film went to press with the Russians on the tape. (Gergiev has been quoted as saying all he knew were that the filmmakers told he and his musicians that everything was fine; he figured they'd work it out with the union. One assumes they did.)
One further note: shortly after this film was released theatrically, I remember borrowing from the library a Soviet-made VHS about an *American* sub that got into the same sort of trouble that K-19 did, with the crew even balking at the help of a Russian vessel. It was exactly the same story, the other way round. I wish I could recall the name, but it was long before I started doing these reviews. I suppose a Soviet director in the sixties did not have the leisure of actually using the true story for such a film!
This K-19: The Widowmaker DVD movie on its face appears shocking, evil and foolish to 2014 western sensibilities which is why in my review I provided a little background so you can watch this movie in its historical context. The Soviet Union was a strong advisary indeed. The former Soviet Union had a formidable, credible nuclear deterent even in 1961. The Soviet Union shocked the United States with its launch of Yuri Gagarin into space because; it also signalled they had very advanced if basic rocket sciences. Advanced rockets with huge lift capacity meant they could hurl huge nuclear weapons at communism's enemies in the west. The United States is often a sleeping giant that once roused from its slumber is very effective at building the infrastructure needed to defend itself. The USA not only eliminated the nuclear missile gap we developed the nuclear triad of land based sub based and air based delivery systems. Now the Soviets were shocked and honestly frightened they had to answer what they saw as the new threat. K19 was the answer. A sub rushed into development, rushed into service with two presurized water nuclear reactors favored for their small size and huge power outputs. Neither of the K19's reactors was protected by even the most basic safety backups. So when disaster happened and the cooling system failed we had a disaster of epic scope that is the basis of this K-19: The Widowmaker [Blu-ray] DVD.
Communism was the religion of the former Soviet state and any sacrifice made on the alter of communism was not only good but expected of all its adherents. This movie reveals so pretty shocking stuff about the lengths the former Soviet Union went to keep this sub and its secrets. What I found equally shocking is some of what happened after the story told by K-19: The Widowmaker. The K19 post accident was nicknamed after the first Japanese city bombed by the USA in its hope to end World War Two with less bloodshed. Shocking is the K19 instead of being immediately scraped was indeed retrofitted and put back into service. Equally shocking is the K19 a sub where so many men died was kept in service till it was finally decomissioned in the early 1990's. When I watch K-19: The Widowmaker I realize that despite all the faults and flaws in our United States government, I am blessed to have been born here. When I think of those poor men scacrified on the alter of communism in such a brutish way, I am shocked and saddened most profoundly. K-19: The Widowmaker Blue Ray is an awesome DVD movie because; with few exceptions it follows pretty true to history. K-19: The Widowmaker is entertaining while also informative. this is NOT a dry documentary it presents the saliors of the K19 as living people who were but for their form of government just like us. On the level of the pure inhumanity of what happened on the K19 my heart cried right along with the sailors who lost their friends. This was a very moving portrayal told with great sensitivity. This movie was not a box office success taking in far less in box office than it cost to make. Hopefully the DVD sales will help K-19: The Widowmaker break even because; this was a story that so totally had to be shared with the world so those sailors did not die in vain.