K-19: The Widowmaker

The film "K-19: The Widowmaker" should be required viewing,...

Some colleges include courses, even majors, in leadership. The film "K-19: The Widowmaker" should be required viewing, as "Patton" often is, for an example of conflicted command. This is a true story of Russia's first nuclear ballistic submarine, malfunctioning in its nuclear reactor on its maiden voyage in the North Atlantic in 1961.

Harrison Ford plays a cold-war Soviet U boat captain devoted to the motherland and communism. Liam Neeson is his executive officer, devoted to the goodwill and survival of his men. The conflict is predictable; what is not easy to discern, however, is who is right or wrong. Given that the nuclear element of the boat eventually places everyone in harm's way, it is difficult for the captain or the audience to see clearly whether or not to save the men from radiation poisoning or the world from a hydrogen-like explosion.

Spiderman learned that with great power comes great responsibility. "K-19," admirable in showing that responsibility, features a mature Harrison Ford, partly villain and partly hero in a challenging mix. No confusion, however, over his awkward Russian accent.

Director Kathryn Bigelow ("Weight of Water") makes the claustrophobia palpable but bearable with a fluid and rapid camera allowing you to breathe while death stalks the ship. This is one of the best films, despite its slow first hour, to study responsibility, authority, and heroism.