Susan Granger’s review of “Phantom” (RCR Media Group)
It’s not easy to cinematically torpedo a submarine thriller. Because of the inherent claustrophobia, an aura of suspense is not difficult to evoke. But filmmaker Todd Robinson (“White Squall,” “Lonely Hearts”) manages to sabotage all diabolical intent with inept filmmaking, resulting in yawning boredom.
Allegedly inspired by true events, it revolves around a Russian sub that mysteriously sank and was discovered, years later, on the ocean floor. In a preamble, Cold War historian/author Kenneth Sewell, describes a skirmish in May, 1968, that posed an even more terrifying threat than the Cuban Missile Crisis that occurred six years earlier.
About-to-be-retired Russian Captain Dmitri Zubov (Ed Harris) is assigned one last mission aboard the B67, a battered, old ballistic-missile sub that’s about to be sold as scrap to the Chinese navy. Gruff, grizzled Dmitri not only drinks too much but also suffers from debilitating epileptic seizures; in addition, his credentials are tarnished because of a previous maritime mishap for which he was partly responsible. At his side on this voyage is his loyal second-in-command Alex (William Fichtner), protocol officer Pavlov (Johnathon Schaech) and medic Semak (Jason Beghe). Also aboard are a mysterious group of “technicians,” headed by Bruni (David Duchovny), who are on a secret K.G.B. assignment. The captain’s suspicions are aroused because they have no military records. It soon becomes apparent that Bruni’s determined to utilize a new Phantom ‘cloaking’ device to ignite W.W. III by firing a nuclear warhead on the United States’ Pacific fleet, making it look like a preemptive attack by China, while the Soviets watch from afar.
Writer/director Robinson’s intent is far too obvious, his casting stereotypical and his confusing, cliché-riddled dialogue is superficial, lacking any shading or subtext. To make matters worse, Byron Werner’s camerawork is wobbly enough to induce seasickness. Fortunately, the actors make no attempt to utilize Russian accents in their mumbled, often indecipherable communication.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Phantom” is an inexcusably tedious 2. For submarine thrills, rent “The Hunt for Red October,” Das Boot” and/or “Run Silent, Run Deep.”