The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Paramount - 2002
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 137 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Starring: Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Peter Sarsgaard, Christian Camargo, Sam Redford
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Music by: Klaus Bedelt
Written by: Christopher Kyle
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: May, 4, 2010
"Fate has found its hero"
At the height of the 1960's Cold War, Russia launches its flagship nuclear submarine, the K-19. In command is iron willed Captain Alexei Vostrikov (Ford). As the K-19 heads toward American waters, a shocking discovery is made: the vessel's nuclear reactor system is leaking, imperiling the men and the sub's missiles. With time running out, the fearless Vostrikov and his crew join together as brave countrymen who must decide the true meaning of duty, honor and sacrifice.
I rented K-19: The widowmaker on DVD when it was first released. I remember thinking it was a good film but not necessarily one that I wanted to see again. When I received the press release for its debut on Blu-ray disc I figured it would be a good opportunity to revisit it. Taking place in 1961 during the Cold War it details the Russians knee jerk reaction to the U.S. launch of a George Washington class nuclear submarine. The K-19 was a fully capable craft that was prematurely sent on a mission to test its ability to launch nuclear ordinance. This is further exacerbated by the recent replacement of beloved Captain Polenin (Neeson), a competent leader that balances the well being of his crew with the mission priority, with Captain Vostrikov, a hard nosed efficiency expert who sees things only in black and white. Polenin is kept aboard to serve as Executive Officer. There are problems right from the start as the ship was manufactured with faulty parts and hasn't been fully outfitted for its purpose which is to patrol the eastern seaboard of the U.S. Prior to it leaving dry dock The crew nicknamed it the Widowmaker because of the 10 people that died in the process of getting it to its launch date.
Polenin and Vostrikov, two men with different philosophies, that frequently clash which is observed by the crew. That is until it is discovered that the nuclear reactor's cooling system has begun the fail. The only solution is to send men in two at a time in 10 minute intervals to attempt a repair. They are afforded little protection from the harmful radiation as the radiation suits that should have been onboard were replaced with cheaper chemical suits that are little more than sealed raincoats. The outcome is physically devastating as each team goes in and returns. On top of that the level of radiation within the entire ship is rising. The presence of a U.S. Destroyer nearby presents the possibility of rescue to Polenin however Vostrikov is determined to fulfill his mission and the thought of K-19 falling into American hands is out of the question. It is the sacrifice of one seemingly cowardly officer and the loyalty of the last man onboard he would ever expect it from that Vostrikov begins to understand that there may be something more important than fulfilling his mission.
This is a poignant film inspired by true events that bring to light an important story about the sacrifices of a group of sailors aboard the first Russian nuclear submarine. I remember now why I originally liked it but also why it wasn't especially a film that I would want to see again. I tend to prefer feel good movies and this being a true story has an outcome that doesn't equate to my definition of such. However this second time around I found that I focused more on the plight faced by these men and the sacrifice, bravery, and sense of duty, not only to country but to one another, that they displayed. Obviously this is a dramatization but it appropriately pays homage to them. The fact that it was covered up for 30 years and that they weren't properly recognized as heroes is no surprise but I would hope that this telling eases some of that pain. It isn't a perfect film but it is a worthwhile one that I enjoyed even more this time.
The rating is for thematic material and disturbing images.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
K-19: The Widowmaker comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 35 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate 4 Mbps.
My experience with this film is limited to a DVD rental a number of years ago. In looking at this video presentation as a whole I found it to be satisfactory but not among the top tier catalog release titles I have seen in high definition. This isn't a very bright film as the majority of it takes place within the confines of the K19. Blacks are dynamic and deep but slight crushed. Shadow detail isn't definitive however depth of field during low level segments is appreciable. Color balance is good as both primary and secondary hues aren't overly vibrant but are cleanly rendered with a pleasing level of saturation and depth. Skin tones have warm, delineated highlights and lifelike texture. Resolution and clarity is estimable although sharpness can be a bit inconsistent. This appears innate and generally affects sequences which include special effects shots. Overall images appear well resolved with discernible definition and fair rendering of fine detail during close up and mid level camera pans. Grain is rendered in even layers that can become more noticeable against dark backgrounds and special effects sequences (such as the wide angle shot of the missile launch). I noticed a few noisy backgrounds and minor banding but neither rose to an egregious level. I didn't see any overt signs of unwanted digital noise reduction or excessive manipulation.
The lossless Dolby TrueHD audio presentation sounds great. This is a drama/thriller that doesn't call for an aggressive surround mix like other films which are based on similar subject matter. Early on the audio has a front oriented perspective with appreciable dimension, channel separation and crisp, descriptive dialogue that is always intelligible. After the K-19 gets underway things open up as the atmospherics within the tight confines of the submarine are readily conveyed through both the front and rear channels. The mix offers good front to rear balance and tightly correlated panning sequences which result in a fairly enveloping sound field. Solid imaging, clarity and detail combine to create a stable listening environment where the blend of music, sound effects, and subtle nuance contained in the soundtrack are aurally equitable. Dynamics range is quite good which helps drive the film's active moments such as sequence that involves the rapid ascent followed by breaking through the ice. Bass response lends excellent solidity and palpable presence that enhances the soundtrack without sounding bloated or pumped up. Overall I was very happy with the quality of this sound mix.
- Commentary by director Kathryn Bigelow and cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth
- The making of K19: The widowmaker - 20 minute< featurette/li>
- Exploring the craft: make-up techniques - 5 minute featurette
- Breaching the hull - 5 minute special effects featurette
- It's in the details - 11 minute production featurette
- (HD) Theatrical trailer
K-19: The widowmaker is a poignant dramatic thriller which is based upon a true story that took place aboard the first Russian nuclear submarine during the Cold War era. It brings those events to life with dignity and makes for a worthwhile and compelling film that I found interesting. There is little to fault with its presentation on Blu-ray Disc as it offers good high definition video quality and excellent lossless sound. It contains the same supplemental package as the original DVD release which consists of a decent making of documentary/audio commentary, and several branching featurettes. The decision to upgrade from the DVD will depend on how important audio/video quality is to you. Unfortunately I can't offer an informed opinion since it has been years since I have seen it on DVD. My educated guess would be that this presentation offers a discernible improvement that would make it worth recommending to fans. It's worth checking out if you haven't seen it so feel free to give it a rent on movie night.
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews
Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS20 1080p High Definition Front Projector (Calibrated by Jeff Meier)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100 16x9 Screen
Anthem AVM50v THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-83 Universal disc/Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)
Philips TSU9400 Pro Series Touch Panel Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator
Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package