The Command

Don’t go to see Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg’s submarine thriller “Kursk” expecting something another “U-571” or “Crimson Tide.” You’ll want to lower your expectations, very low, for this flick starring Matthias Schoenaerts (“Red Sparrow”). Interestingly, the story behind Russian submarine Kursk has been told many times in various mediums to be such a recent tragedy. Robert Rodat’s screenplay is an anti-establishment narrative on Russian arrogance and their despicable pride. “Kursk”, re-titled “The Command” for generic American audiences, showcases the negligent Russian Navy and explores the folly of its “no foreign interference” policy. Despite a promising cast, the actors are stuck with playing one-sided characters. There are no well-rounded performances here.

The bond between this group of sailors is unbreakable. They are willing to sell prized possessions so that one of their shipmates can have the wedding his bride is counting on. Days later the men bid their farewells as embark on a dangerous exercise, carrying leaky missiles and “angry” torpedoes. The submarine Kursk suffers a massive explosion due to the negligence of those in command, killing most of the crew and sending the rest to the bottom of the sea. A group of survivors including Mikhail Kalekov (Matthias Schoenaerts) work together to conserve air and energy in hopes of a rescue that becomes more complicated than they ever imagined. 

“The Command” begins as a slow-moving male bonding story....but quickly surges to the explosive underwater moments that set the stage for the rest of the film.

The Command” begins as a slow-moving male bonding story with a brief interlude with Kalekov and wife (Léa Seydoux) but quickly surges to the explosive underwater moments that set the stage for the rest of the film. Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth’s (“Bridget Jones Baby”) has very little to do here beyond shouting orders from the control room. Once the sub lands on the ocean floor Schoenaerts role also has very little room to maneuver. One of the films most dramatic moments involves Kalekov holding his breath for a ‘James Bond’ length of time while searching for oxygen canisters, not enough action to justify the cost of a movie ticket. 

Clearly, this submarine flick is note and action movie, but a political commentary, a cinematic shaming of the Russian military. Max von Sydow (“Minority Report” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens“) serves as the Russian mouthpiece, the villain of this film. It’s mostly Danish and British actors playing Russians in this English language film, which may seem unauthentic to European audiences. While “The Command” doesn’t sink to the level of boring, it certainly isn’t the most captivating experience either. Vinterberg’s previous international films “The Hunt” and “Far From the Maddening Crowd” offered more entertainment and substance to chew on. 

Final Thought

Submarine thriller “The Command” takes cinematic aim at Russian arrogance with a rather banal retelling of a tragic story.


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