Normally I love watching submarine films. I mean the long lamented genre of siege films is my favorite and the idea of taking a siege mentality, putting it in a giant windowless cigar tube, with the knowledge that even a sneeze could sentence you and 100 other people to death from some unseen enemy is, to my mind a recipe to great movies. And U571.
Because normally I’m not watching Kursk or The Command in the US or Kursk: The Last Mission in the UK. Normally I’m not watching a story which should not need to be told because there’s absolutely no reason for it to have happened.
Normally I’m not watching a film and getting Chernobyl flashbacks. You remember Chernobyl, right? Literally the greatest TV show ever made and, unlike Breaking Bad a TV show that you actually should put next on your to binge list. (I’m starting Breaking Bad next week, I swear! On my script guys life!)
Because all of the issues flagged up in that show are flagged up here, despite the Cold War allegedly being well and truly over by that point. Over, according to the papers but not in the mindset of those high enough up the food chain to accept the offers of help that came in thick and fast, instead choosing to rely on outdated, inefficient machinery that didn’t have a hope in hell of doing what they needed it to do.
Then you have the people back at home, desperate for information who, instead are being fed useless out of date slogans and information that’s so irrelevant that the people delivering it might as well not have bothered.
However, unlike Chernobyl (which was so realistic that the only people who got a bit miffered were the Pro-Kremlin media which continues to deny the extent of the disaster at Chernobyl, saying it has been exaggerated, with state-run media scoffing at the “myths,” such as large numbers of leukemia. Segments of the Russian government were so unhappy with this program that state TV channel NTV is producing its own more “patriotic” account of the events, involving a wholly fictional storyline based on a conspiracy theory that a CIA agent was in Chernobyl to sabotage the plant.)- I can’t wait. But Kursk defiantly takes a more fictional route- the end results still the same but the way we get there is slightly different than what happened in reality. Because otherwise it would be even more depressing.
Anyway, the plotline (in case you haven’t guessed 420 words in) is that during a Russian naval exercise in the Barents Sea two explosions severely damage the submarine. Twenty-three sailors survived the crash and desperately waited for help to arrive while their oxygen ran out minute-by-minute. It’s cold, it’s grey, it’s depressing and it’s one of the most affecting film I’ve seen in months.
I do have some issues with the film in the Colin Firth (whilst playing a smaller role than the ad campaign would have you believe) is somewhat distracting in the role because a story like this is strong enough that it doesn’t need star power, it’s simply distracting. It’s the same with Léa Seydoux who is a fine actor but I feel that casting an unknown would have lent the story more resonance. Also, toning down the melodrama might have helped somewhat, with the increased time being used to focus on the people trying to save those desperately trapped under the sea, as well as those trying to use their limited resources to get more time for the rescue that they know is coming if they can just hold out a little bit longer…
Kursk/ The Command/ Kursk: The Last Mission is a film that doesn’t pull it’s punches or attempt to quell it’s anger at the fact that every decision that was made was wrong, and (at time of writing) no-one has bee brought to justice. There’s no Hollywood style bombast or moments, just real people trying to make the most of a horrifying, nightmare, situation. I mean, the characters aren’t for the ages (the guys on the sub are pretty interchangeable) but I liked them, I liked their sense of camaraderie, the way that they kept each other sane in the most terrifying circumstances imaginable. The effects were passable and, on the whole, this was a story that needed to be told, I just think that they needed to take out the star names, maybe stick closer to reality and treat this as an entry point to a fascinating story.
My Score- See It.