K-19: The Widowmaker - Movie Review
by Michael Elliott

Artistic Rating: 3.0 Stars
Comments: This sub doesn't sink nor does it rise to the top. An average, often engaging character study of men in a stressful situation.
Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Harrison Ford, Liam Neesom, Peter Sarsgaard, Christian Camargo, Joss Ackland
Written By: Christopher Kyle
Rated: PG-13 for brief nudity
Running Time: 2 hr : 18 min
Scripture References: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Corinthians 9:8, 2 Timothy 2:21

The definition of a hero transcends borders, nationalities and political ideologies. The film K-19: The Widowmaker, which is inspired by actual events, introduces American audiences to a number of Soviet heroes... submariners whose tale of courage and duty remained a Communist state secret for 28 years.

In 1961, tensions between the world's two nuclear superpowers (the US and the USSR) were at critically high levels. When US forces parked a nuclear sub within striking distance of Moscow, the Soviets determined that they must show an equally strong sign of retaliatory force.

Thus, the order was given to rush the newest nuclear-powered addition to the Soviet fleet, the submarine K19, to a position off the American coast. When the captain of the vessel, Mikkail Polenin (Liam Neeson, Shindler's List), expresses his doubts of the sub's readiness and his concerns for his crew, he is summarily replaced by the party-loyal, no-nonsense Captain Alexei Vastrikov (Harrison Ford, Patriot Games). Polenin remains on board to serve as executive officer.

The differences between these two officers is immediately evident. Polenin coaxes the best from his crew and earns their loyalty through a positive, nurturing leadership style. Vastrikov pushes the crew to the very edge of their capabilities in order to successfully complete the mission assigned them. He may not win their loyalty, but he demands their respect.

Polenin's doubts prove to be warranted. The sub is indeed ill-prepared and ill-equipped for its mission. A lack of proper supplies and trained specialists puts the vessel's crew at peril when a leak in the reactor's cooling system causes the temperature in the core to reach critical levels. To fix the leak would require exposing the ship and its crew to lethal doses of radiation. If the leak is not repaired, the resulting nuclear explosion so close to the American shoreline would, given the tense political climate, almost certainly trigger the beginning of World War III.

K-19 is not a typical wartime movie, but then again, the Cold War was not fought on battlefields. The conflicts in this film are mainly internal as each submariner must pit his fear and mortality against his sense of duty and love of country.

Both Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson give studied, controlled performances as two men who have as much in common as they have differences. Contrary to my expectations and other critics' reactions, I found that their "Russian" accents were not a distraction and even helped to keep the movie's sense of place and time. Peter Sarsgaard (Boys Don't Cry) has a power-packed moment as a novice officer whose courage fails him at a crucial juncture.

In K-19, director Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days) has almost all the makings of a good, tense, sub film. While not on par with Das Boot or The Hunt for Red October both of which had active enemies to add to their conflict, K-19 manages to convey the claustrophobic setting adequately. And yet something is missing. The film simply fails to subject its audience to the same nerve-wracking emotional pressure that its characters face.

As the captain of any vessel knows, equipping a boat or ship is of the utmost importance if his journey is to be successful. Omitting a part or piece of equipment could be disastrous. What a comfort to know that, on our journey of life, God has fully equipped us with all we need.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished (fully equipped) unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV)

God gave us His Word in a written form so that we would have everything we would need to perform the tasks He would have us do. We are equipped with His truth that will never fail. We are powered by His love that is never-ending. We are fully equipped to successfully sail the seas of this life.

-Michael Elliott-c/o Movie Parables

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