Tuesday 21 September 2021

Movie Review: The Command (2018)

A drama about the Kursk submarine disaster, The Command (also known as Kursk and Kursk: The Last Mission) is a well-constructed and multi-faceted recreation of a tragedy at sea.

In 2000, Captain-Lieutenant Mikhail Averin (Matthias Schoenaerts) and his crew mates celebrate a colleague's wedding. They then depart on the submarine Kursk out of Vidyayevo port in Murmansk to participate in Russian Northern Fleet naval exercises in the Barents Sea. The crew members notice one of the torpedoes running hot, but their superiors ignore the warning. The faulty torpedo explodes, triggering a catastrophic secondary explosion of all other munitions. The Kursk sinks.

Mikhail leads a group of 23 survivors who take refuge in a sealed-off compartment. Admiral Andrey Grudzinsky (Peter Simonischek) leads the rescue efforts, but is hampered by inadequate and poorly maintained equipment. Back in Murmansk, Mikhail's pregnant wife Tanya (Léa Seydoux) and other relatives desperately seek information but are stonewalled by navy officials.

Commodore David Russell (Colin Firth) of the British Navy is monitoring the disaster and offers to help, but the Russian bureaucracy represented by Admiral Petrenko (Max von Sydow) refuses foreign assistance. Meanwhile the survivors face cold, wet and cramped conditions, and dwindling oxygen supplies.

Directed by Denmark's Thomas Vinterberg, The Command adapts the book A Time To Die by Robert Moore with grim realism. The Kursk tragedy resulted in 118 deaths, and the film approaches the drama with a clear-eyed objective to trace events and decisions above and below the waves. Once the calamity strikes the mood is almost uniformly grim, and the sense of impending doom only tightens as rescue efforts flounder.

The Robert Rodat screenplay invests plenty of time on-board the stricken vessel as the explosion survivors struggle to stay alive. These scenes explore the limits of human endurance, acts of heroism and camaraderie coming together to solve problems, momentarily raise spirits, and expand the survival window.

But events on the surface are not shortchanged. The perspective of the families is expressed through Tanya's ordeal, the inept response of the bumbling Russian command is painfully exposed, and the British Navy's readiness to assist represents the international community's willingness to set politics aside and attempt to save lives. 

The multiple viewpoints provide relief from on-board claustrophobia, and ensure the two hours of running time never drag. The cameras of cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle capture the cramped and crumbled conditions on the stricken submarine, the grey aesthetic of Tanya's environment, and some impressive flotilla landscapes.

Matthias Schoenaerts leaves an impression as an even-tempered leader maintaining his wits to focus on the immediacy of the crisis. But while The Command salutes individual moments of courage, this is a story about the damage caused by the immense failure of big machinery.

All Ace Black Movie Blog Reviews are here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome reader comments about this post.