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March 2, 2013 | 11:51 a.m. CST
For all of its faults, Phantom, a movie about a Cold War-era Soviet ballistic missile submarine, manages to tell a pretty gripping story.
It’s inspired by true events that historian Kenneth Sewell, in a quote that prefaces the movie, says brought the world closer to World War III than the Cuban Missile Crisis.Related Movie
A captain about to retire, played by Ed Harris, is sent on one last mission in a submarine about to be sold for spare parts. It’s a routine outing except for the presence of a KGB agent, played by David Duchovny, and a new device strapped onto the top of the captain’s submarine.
Figuring out what the device is and what it means for the sailors trapped in the sub plays out onscreen. For the most part, the movie keeps the audience engaged despite the fact that 90 percent of the movie happens in a submarine’s hull. Although it’s entertaining, it does stumble.
The jargon the crew uses to communicate renders some scenes pointless unless you spent a summer interning on a Soviet sub. The captain barks out orders with terms such as “one degree up bubble,” but it’s hard to tell how his commands affect the sub’s course. The scenes deteriorate into a group of men standing around and talking nonsense.
The biggest problem with Phantom, however, is a difficult one to fix. It’s hard to be sympathetic to America’s enemies, even those onscreen, when they are actively trying to destroy the country. The film attempts to do this, portraying Harris and his crew as fathers and husbands, but in general it falls short.