K-19: The Widowmaker

Bomb Rating: 

Harrison Ford has let the cat out of the bag -- an actor can actually now purchase a Russian accent at Wal-Mart. The accent section is kind of hard to find -- you have to walk to the corner of the store, right to the end of aisle 14 and there, sitting in a chair, is an old guy making minimum wage. His name tag says "Pete," but it's scrawled on a piece of tape and pasted over some other name on the tag. He will teach you everything you need to know. Here's Pete's first lesson: Remember to make "w's" sound like "v's". You're on your way! Apparently, Ford only made it to lesson 2: "Drink vodka."

Ford has acquired this astounding accent so that he can say things like "He has turned himself into a hero" for director Kathryn Bigelow, who apparently thinks the audience isn't smart enough to recognize heroism when it's bludgeoned across the face with it. A seaman who nearly pees his pants for fear of getting roasted in a nuclear reactor later goes in and sacrifices himself. Thank God Bigelow is at the helm, lest we fail to recognize the contrast between the two acts. Like, I thought he was a hero for saving his own ass, but Ford was kind enough to state explicitly that in fact, he was a coward and THEN a hero. Thanks for that.

Ford plays Capt. Alexi Vostrikov in this submarine thriller that's "inspired" by actual events. "Inspired by" is the Hollywood term for "research is boring." The story is basically true but the characters and most of the details are fictionalized. Apparently there was an actual Russian submarine in 1961 that nearly had a nuclear meltdown, though I doubt there was anything resembling the tension between its former capt, Mikhail Polenin (Liam Neeson) and its new one as they serve aboard the same vessel.

While Bigelow and Ford cheat us out of realizing the simplest of facts, they also enlist Neeson to cheat us out of the expectation that Polenin will do something drastic to get his ship back. It's set up as a "Mutiny on the Bounty" situation. Unfortunately, Polenin becomes an entirely different character at the crucial moment, as does Vostrikov. Literally, there's a point where these people turn into other people. Suddenly, everything they've been saying and doing in the film becomes pointless and we start watching a film that preaches more about "mutual respect" than an ABC after-school special. Unfortunately, at that point "K-19" doesn't become a different movie, because if it did, odds are that it would have become a better one.

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