Friday, June 21, 2019

Movie with Abe: The Command


The Command
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Released June 21, 2019

Historical films about large-scale disasters often fall into two categories: action epics about the scope of what went wrong and more intimate dramas about the people impacted. There are many stories of people being unexpectedly put into harm’s way when an unforeseen weather pattern or theoretically safe test goes hopelessly awry. These films stand both as a testament to those who lost their lives as a result and as a cinematic representation of what they endured. Truly capturing the sense of panic and hopelessness felt by those trapped in an impossible situation is the greatest challenge faced by a film like this.

Mikhail Averin (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a captain aboard the Russian Kursk submarine in 2000, conducting a routine naval exercise. When two explosions rock the ship, the crew struggles to survive, aware that they must do whatever they can to alert those who could send help that they are both in distress and still alive. Averin does his best to maintain a calm atmosphere as his men gradually become aware of their increasingly poor odds, while a British commodore (Colin Firth) watches closely from afar and seeks to offer assistance to a reticent Russian operation weary of having anything about their nuclear-powered submarine discovered in the process.

This is a film that emphasizes those aboard the Kursk and the commitment they have to survive, driven by a desire to be reunited with their families. Averin is just one of the characters portrayed, whose relationship with his pregnant wife (Léa Seydoux) and young son (Artemiy Spiridonov) serves to anchor his will to live. He is a fitting representation of true awareness of his circumstances, resolute that keeping his men sane is just as crucial as ensuring that they can be rescued. Due to the tragic nature of this story’s end, many of the scenes are likely invented, but the power and devotion shown within them is indeed representative of a heroism that was displayed even by documented events that led to their eventually being located.

Danish director Thomas Vintenberg, who was Oscar-nominated for his strong drama “The Hunt” in 2013, has assembled an entirely international cast for a film all in English that might have been better served by using original languages instead. It’s not a tremendous detriment, as performances from Schoenaerts, Seydoux, August Diehl, and others are just as strong as they might have been in a different language. This film runs almost two full hours, spending time with the people it seeks to commemorate in a film that effectively spotlights the unfortunate politics and unnecessary diplomatic obstacles that can result in devastating loss akin to another such disastrous event recently chronicled on HBO in “Chernobyl.”

B

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