Film Review: Kursk: The Last Mission


Director Thomas Vinterberg’s Kursk: The Last Mission is a foreboding drama, which offers necessary tension. The film is an engaging watch.

In 2000, the Russian Navy conducts an exercise. When something goes wrong, the Kursk submarine erupts in flames. The sailors fight for survival, hoping a rescue is coming…

Directed by Vinterberg, Kursk: The Last Mission is Robert Rodat and Robert Moore, based on Moore’s book. A sense of foreboding is present from very early on in the film. Those unaware of the facts of the disaster are unlikely to mistake Kursk: The Last Mission for a “against all odds” survival tale. Given that most viewers will be aware of the outcome, Vinterberg’s film then focuses on the situation itself; the men in peril, the family at home, and the decisions that led to such an outcome. 

The narrative moves at a good pace, fitting all of these pieces together in an engaging manner. Vinterberg really emphasises the frustration of the situation. The submarine scenes are tense, the sense of hopelessness increases as the clock ticks by. Mikhail is a good focal point; in charge in an unpredictable situation, trying to keep his men active in the most unenviable of situations. Likewise, the stress and anguish of the families is palpable, particularly in the face of the response from officials. Those trying to do something (Petrenko and Russell) facing the futility of what they are up against is conveyed very effectively. 

Kursk: The Last Mission could work as an accompany piece to the television series Chernobyl. The same themes are present; outdated infrastructure, the oppressive nature of rule, the passing of blame, inability to challenge hierarchy even by those most knowledgeable and equipped. The film is an indictment of regime which disavows criticism. That is not to say that the disaster could not have happened elsewhere, yet there is something particular about the cause and effect in this case. 

Matthias Schoenarts delivers a capable performance. Colin Firth is as reliable as ever, and Max von Sydow is also good. Although it seems like a minor role at first, Léa Seydoux is convincing as Tanya. The ratio change is an interesting touch, but effectively conveys a shift. There are some fantastic shots, Vinterberg and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle offer some beautifully framed imagery. 

Although it does not pack the same punch as The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg delivers an engaging picture with Kursk: The Last Mission. The film exhibits structural failings without neglecting the human cost. 

Kursk: The Last Mission is out in UK cinemas and on Digital HD from 12th July 2019.

Stuff To Look At

A myriad of trailers this week, including Far From The Madding CrowdCinderellaAloha, and more…

Far From The Madding Crowd

Far From The Madding Crowd was one of the few books I remember reading at high school. How the names Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oak take me back. This adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel comes with good pedigree; it is directed by Thomas Vinterberg and stars Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Michael Sheen. Far From The Madding Crowd is released in UK cinemas on 1st May 2015.

Aloha

Cameron Crowe’s latest Aloha features a stellar cast, including Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Bill Murray, and Rachel McAdams. Bradley Cooper stars as a military contractor who is given the opportunity to return to the site of his greatest triumphs in Hawaii. Aloha is scheduled for release in September 2015.

Cinderella

From the above trailer, it looks as if Cate Blanchett will really shine in Cinderella. As well as, of course, that magnificent-looking slipper. Kenneth Branagh’s update of the classic fairy tale, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, hits UK screens on 27th March 2015.

The Age of Adeline

The premise of The Age of Adeline hinges on an interesting aspect; its protagonist stops ageing at 29 years old. If only that could happen in real life, although granted, it would be a bit odd. Starring Blake Lively and Harrison Ford, The Age of Adeline is released on 8th May 2015.

Mommy

Xavier Dolan’s latest offering is receiving a lot of critical praise. Mommy stars Anne Dorval as a widowed mother tasked with the full-time custody of her son, who has ADHD. Mommy is released in UK cinemas on 20th March 2015.

Trainwreck

Here is the first trailer for Trainwreck. Directed by Judd Apatow and written by and starring Amy Schumer, Trainwreck is about a young woman who doesn’t think monogamy is possible. The comedy will be released on UK screens on 28th August 2015.

Hot Pursuit

Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara are the unlikely double act in Anne Fletcher’s action comedy Hot Pursuit. Straight-laced cop Witherspoon is tasked with protecting Mafia witness Vergara. Hot Pursuit speeds into UK cinemas on 8th May 2015.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Here is the trailer for Guy Ritchie’s update on 1960s television show The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. Set against a Cold War backdrop, the film focuses on a CIA agent forced to team up with a KGB operative. Starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is set for release on 14th August 2015.

Focus

Upcoming thriller Focus stars Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Rodrigo Santoro. Veteran con man Nicky takes on novice Jess and teaches her the tricks of the trade. Focus hits UK screens on 27th February 2015.

Film Review: The Hunt

Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt is a powerful and affecting drama. Its strength lies in the fantastic performances and the fine direction.

Kindergarten teacher Lucas is adored by the children he teaches and has many friends in the small community where he lives. When Lucas is accused of abusing a child, his world falls apart. The allegation has a profound effect on the community…

Writer Tobias Lindholm and writer-director Thomas Vinterberg tackle a difficult subject with The Hunt. Rather than sensationalise the topic, the accusation of child abuse is handled in a thoughtful and sensitive manner. The film does not depict clear heroes and villains, the theme rightly calls for a deeper and more multi-faceted approach than this.

Characters are well developed, even those in more minor roles. The Hunt allows viewers to take a number of different vantage points, although the focus is on the accused Lucas. Dialogue appears natural, and it is sometimes the unsaid which is most affecting. The film evokes strong feelings without there ever being a sense of forcing an emotional reaction or aiming to elicit sympathy.

The direction is responsible for much of this reaction. There are ample close ups, particularly focusing on the eyes. Many of the shots linger, giving the audience time to take in the action and reflect upon it. Meanwhile, the long shots work well to effectively emphasise the isolation of Lucas.

Mads Mikkelsen offers a powerful performance as protagonist Lucas. It is difficult not to be moved by the character, played with such authentic suffering. Annika Wedderkopp is also great as Klara, giving a believable performance despite her young age.

The Hunt is perfectly pitched and finely executed. A moving and thought-provoking film.

The Hunt is being screened at the London Film Festival in October 2012.