Director Thomas Vinterberg, known for a varied and successful career including films like “The Hunt,” delves into another challenging project.
Many are familiar with the facts. The Kursk, a symbol of Russia’s technological prowess under Putin, embarked on an exercise near Murmansk to showcase the nation’s post-90s resurgence. However, technical failures and oversights led to catastrophic explosions, killing most of the crew. A handful of survivors lingered on before eventually succumbing. With this backdrop, Vinterberg offers his take on this modern tragedy.
The West often views the disaster as a failure of Russian authority and technology, a sentiment rejected in Russia. Vinterberg explores not just the tragedy itself, but also the harrowing struggles of the surviving crew, led by Matthias Schoenaerts, against darkness, freezing temperatures, and icy waters. Yet, their struggle is secondary to the film’s main focus: the diplomatic circles where the British, particularly Naval Admiral Colin Firth, castigate Russian negligence. Max von Sydow, in a standout role, garners particular disdain. The film also features noteworthy performances from Peter Simonischek and Léa Seydoux, embodying a pan-European critique of Russian mismanagement.
Vinterberg’s directorial prowess is on full display, as in his surprising reimagining of the classic “Far from the Madding Crowd.” In lesser hands, the Kursk tragedy could have been just another disaster movie, but Vinterberg knows how to speak the language of cinema. His vision is amplified by Alexandre Desplat’s emotive score and Anthony Dod Mantle’s expansive cinematography. After the prologue, the film shifts to a wide-angle format, emphasizing the paradox of the claustrophobic submarine interior against the boundless ocean depths. A harrowing diving scene serves as the emotional climax, delivering a visceral impact.
All in all, “Kursk” offers an intense reconstruction of events both inside and outside the ill-fated submarine. It may not be groundbreaking, but it effectively holds the viewer’s attention.
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