© Wild Bunch/Central

Kursk (The Command)
Belgium/Luxembourg 2018

Opening 11 Jul 2019

Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
Writing credits: Robert Rodat, Robert Moore
Principal actors: Matthias Schoenaerts, Léa Seydoux, Peter Simonischek, August Diehl, Max von Sydow

On August 10, 2000, the Russian submarine K-141 Kursk, as part of the Russian Northern Fleet, was practicing maneuvers in the Barents Sea, between Russia and Norway. On the second day a torpedo exploded, causing a fire which led to a second explosion and the submarine sank. There were 118 men on board, and 23 were able to barricade themselves against rising water in Section 9. Under the leadership of Captain Lieutenant Mikhail Avenrin (Matthias Schoenaerts), they discuss rescue plans, including keeping oxygen tanks in full service. They try to communicate with their officers on land, Admiral Gruzinsky (Peter Simonischek) and Admiral Petrenko (Max von Sydow). This includes pounding on the walls of the submarine, a primitive, but useful, sign of life. This goes on for nine days as the Russians debate recuse possibilities. They are not open to suggestions from Commander David Russell (Colin Firth) of the Royal British Navy, as well as Norwegian navy officials, who both have the better rescue equipment.

This film follows the book A Time to Die: The Untold Story of the Kursk Tragedy by Robert Moore, which is based on the facts of this catastrophe – or on the facts as author Moore and film director Thomas Vinterberg understood them. The Russians were very secretive: afraid of revealing military loopholes as well as admitting their own incapability and weaknesses. While the men suffer underwater, we feel for their families who are waiting in their small coastal town. There is Tanya Averin (Lea Seydoux) and her neighbors, all with children, all desperate for news, which is not forthcoming. These nine days (in reality three days) are portrayed in suspenseful 117 minutes. If you are unfamiliar with the history of the KURSK, then these minutes become tenser as you await the results, fighting the sensation, that you, too, are drowning, holding your breath, showing claustrophobia with the men fighting for survival in a small, cold space. An interesting film about an historical event, it will hold your attention and send you to research more details after the viewing. (Becky Tan)

The theaters below show films in their original language; click on the links for showtimes and ticket information.
Interviews with the stars, general film articles, and reports on press conferences and film festivals.
Subscribe to the free KinoCritics monthly email newsletter here.