• Film

Kursk: The Last Mission

The usually dependable Thomas Vinterberg mislays his mojo in this unconvincing recreation of the Russian submarine disaster.

Phil de Semlyen

Time Out says

This timely but half-hearted rendering of the infamous Russian submarine disaster shares some narrative DNA with ‘Chernobyl’ but doesn’t have anything like the gut-punch power of the HBO miniseries. Once the pride of the Russian navy, Kursk headed out for military exercises in 2000, only for a faulty torpedo to explode on board and the sub to sink to the bottom of the Barents Sea. The survivors holed up in a compartment of the sub, waiting for help to arrive as the water levels rose… and rose.

All the raw materials for a cracking ticking-clock thriller are there. But director Thomas Vinterberg (‘The Hunt’), usually so good at stripping his characters down to their barest states, doesn’t feel like a good fit for the material. Major moments of drama are handled in a perfunctory, point-and-shoot way – although there is one underwater sequence that sucks the air from your lungs.

As with ‘Chernobyl’, we get multiple perspectives of the unfolding crisis: the submarine officer (Matthias Schoenaerts); the wife (Léa Seydoux); the jaded Russian admiral (Peter Simonischek of ‘Toni Erdmann’); the well-intentioned Royal Naval commodore in the nice jumper (Colin Firth). Interestingly, Vladimir Putin, who suffered a PR disaster thanks to his offhand handling of the sinking, is nowhere to be seen here.

None of the actors is served well by dialogue that’s as on-the-nose as that title. ‘We’re doing the impossible with the inadequate,’ grumbles one officer. Screenwriter Robert Rodat wrote ‘Saving Private Ryan’, but this is one military rescue act that’s beyond him.

Release Details

  • Rated:12A
  • Release date:Friday 5 July 2019
  • Duration:117 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Thomas Vinterberg
  • Screenwriter:Robert Rodat
  • Cast:
    • Peter Simonischek
    • Léa Seydoux
    • Colin Firth
    • Matthias Schoenaerts
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