Phantom – This Means War! week

Phantom is currently available on instant Netflix.



Phantom (2013) – Rated R

A Cold War Soviet submarine captain struggles with a rogue KGB group trying to seize control of the ship’s nuclear missile. Meanwhile, he secretly suffers from seizures that affect his grip on reality.

One Line Review: Exciting though dated premise makes for a surprisingly lifeless movie.

Todd Robinson is writer, director, and producer on this film so this is clearly a labor of love for him. I like submarine movies and I love submarine movies that are filmed on an actual submarine. Phantom is filmed aboard an actual decommissioned sub and the setting is great, showing off the cramped quarters.

Ed Harris is always a welcome presence and he does a good job here as Demi, in spite of the ludicrous pro-U.S. speech he has to give in the movie. Wonderful character actor William Fichtner is his second-in-command Alex. Lance Henriksen has a vital, if minor, role as Markov. All three of them do the best they can with the material. David Duchovny is less successful as a Spetsnaz commando with an agenda. None of the rest of the cast are particularly memorable.

We have three good actors in a submarine film based on a real life or death incident that could bring about the end of the world and it’s all filmed in a real submarine. So what went wrong? Apparently everything else.

The real life incident took place in 1968 but the film gives us no feel at all for the time that it is set in (except obviously prior to the fall of the Soviet Union). The Hunt for Red October handled a different situation aboard a Soviet submarine with quite a bit of flair. More recently (2002), K-19 Widowmaker was released dealing with a potential calamity aboard a Soviet submarine.

The real problem is that Phantom commits a cardinal sin: it is actually boring. There is no sense of tension in the movie, in spite of several incidents that were ripe for suspense. Nothing is handled artfully and everything is as predictable as possible. All the life is sucked out of the film. The only exception is the end sequence which will have you scratching your head in befuddlement.