K-19: The Widowmaker is a movie released on July 19, 2002, about the first of many disasters that befell the Soviet submarine of the same name. The film was directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The screenplay was adapted by Christopher Kyle, based on a story written by Louis Nowra.
The movie cost $100,000,000 to make, but gross returns were only $35,000,000 in the United States and $30,500,000 internationally. The film was not financed by a major studio (National Geographic was a key investor), making it one of the most expensive independent films to date. It was filmed in Canada, specifically Toronto, Ontario; Gimli, Manitoba; and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
In 1959, the Soviet Union launches its first ballistic missile nuclear submarine, the K-19 — nicknamed "The Widowmaker" due to many deaths that occurred during manufacturing. The ship is led by Captain Alexei Vostrikov (Harrison Ford), aided by executive officer Mikhail Polenin (Liam Neeson). Polenin and the crew have served a number of years and missions together but Vostrikov's appointment is shown to be aided by his wife's political connections, her uncle is a member of the Politburo. During an early inspection, Vostrikov discovers the officer in charge of the sub's nuclear reactors to be drunk and asleep on-duty. Against Polenin's advice that the man is "the best reactor officer in the fleet", Vostrikov sacks the officer and orders Polenin to request a replacement. The new reactor officer arrives direct from the naval academy and has never been at sea. During the K-19's official launch, the bottle of champagne doesn't break when it strikes the bow; the sailors glance nervously at each other due to this renowned sign of bad luck.
K-19 puts to sea for her trials. Vostrikov orders a series of diving maneuvers and during these, asks Polenin to simulate a number of activities or emergencies including fires, flooding or the firing of torpedoes or missiles while Vostrikov assesses the crew's response. There are a number of minor accidents during these exercises which result in injuries to crew-members. In addition, Vostrikov points out to Polenin that the crew are too slow and slipshod in their reaction and completion of these exercises. The crew begin to grumble about Vostrikov's demanding orders and authoritarian manner, but Polenin silences them when he visits the crew's quarters: "I heard there'd been some complaining. I thought, 'Not from my crew. Not on my boat'." Meanwhile, Vostrikov blames the officers for the crew's under-performance, accusing them of being soft on the men and lacking leadership.
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