Phantom, directed by Todd Robinson, is a tightly wound film about an aging Russian submarine that is hijacked during the Cold War by extremists, intent of starting a real war. Apparently based on actual events but not a full true story, the movie stars Ed Harris as a weary captain suffering from seizures and a tragic event in his past. (It’s hard not to immediately think of The Abyss when picturing Ed Harris in a submarine, but there are no aliens in this one.)
William Fichtner is Harris’s second-in-command and the two of them have excellent chemistry together as old war buddies. In the confines of the submarine, there are several scenes with the two of them up close, and their mutual admiration and clear understanding of each other comes across very well. The two of them really make the film, in a way, not to disregard Duchovny.
It is a little off-putting to have Americans playing Russians and speaking English, even though it’s certainly been done before. You’d almost be forgiven for thinking that Ed Harris was an American who had joined the Russian Navy for a little while in the beginning. The entire cast sounds American but all printed words are in Russian, including on all the dials and knobs on the submarine. Everyone also drinks vodka constantly, except for a nice little scene in which the party representative on board (a suitably wishy-washy Jonathan Schaech) calls Harris unpatriotic for drinking rum in his cabin.
David Duchovny plays the suspicious KGB agent who orders Harris to make increasingly frightening maneuvers to test out a mysterious device that he and his partner have brought on board. Duchovny does a great job as the smug and coolly vicious Bruni, and even shows off some surprising biceps at one point. The fighting scenes are intensified by the tight quarters, especially as the men sneak up on each other through narrow parts of the submarine, which was shot very well.
The dialogue between Duchovny and Harris is sometimes too on the nose as far as their differing ideologies, and Harris also has a line about America that sounds like the writer is blowing our own horn a bit. The ending is arguably a little schmaltzy, and it would have been nice to get to know more of the crew members in order to root for their survival on a personal level as well as in general. With that in mind, I think it would’ve benefited from being longer, but it’s a solid story with great players, and over all, very enjoyable.
Image via Prodigy PR