Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Starring: Matthias Schoenaerts, Léa Seydoux, Peter Simonischek, August Diehl, Magnus Millang, Matthias Schweighöfer, Max von Sydow and Colin Firth
Run time: 1h 57m
For the crew of the nuclear-powered submarine Kursk, it was supposed to be a standard training exercise with three phases. Fire a test missile, fire a test torpedo and then return to their base undetected. Despite numerous warnings about potentially faulty equipment, the practice went ahead resulting in tragedy for the 118 men on board and their families. Kursk: The Last Mission is a dramatisation of these events also based on the book, A Time to Die, by ITN’s former Moscow correspondent Robert Moore.
Director Thomas Vinterberg quickly introduces the key players of the events, including Captain Mikhail Averin (Schoenaerts) and recently married Pavel (Schweighöfer). They’re a likeable bunch, pawning their Submariner watches to give Pavel and his new bride the wedding they deserve, as they knock back the vodka as only a Russian Naval band of brothers could do.
As the drill commences, reservations about the safety of various pieces of equipment are voiced, yet ignored, and as events spiral out of control the Kursk finds herself stranded at the bottom of the Barents Sea. Under the water, a fight for survival by the remaining crew is harrowing and tense whilst above, the families of the stricken sailors are desperately seeking answers from an obstinate and evasive government.
Although Kursk: The Last Mission may have been given a little too much Hollywood treatment subsequently creating a ‘by the numbers’ disaster movie script, there are some horrifically tense underwater sequences courtesy of Anthony Dod Mantle’s creative camera work and the exceptional cast are all showcased well. Léa Seydoux has plenty to get her teeth into as Averin’s pregnant wife, Tanya, and Colin Firth shows authority as David Russell, a Royal Navy Commodore eager to offer Britain’s assistance in the recovery operation. Composer Alexandre Desplat provides a poignant and atmospheric score.
Kursk: The Last Mission works best during the submarine scenes. Claustrophobic and uncomfortable, it’s a haunting take on the events of August 12th 2000 where sacrifices were made in the name of duty, but the catalogue of errors that followed the catastrophe, primarily from the Russian Navy, leaves more questions than answers.
Kursk: The Last Mission torpedos into select UK cinemas and on Digital HD July 12th.