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  • Léa SeydouxMatthias Schoenaerts...
  • Action & AdventureDrama...
  • Thomas Vinterberg
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Cairo 360
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Kursk: In Theory

Just because something sounds good in theory does not mean it is going to be easy. We learn that the hard way from all the “I can walk that far”, “it’s probably fine to eat this”, and the “I can totally get this done by tomorrow”. Kursk sounds like a great movie in theory, but the reality is somewhat different.

Kursk follows a group of survivors who are stuck underwater in a Russian submarine after an explosion causes the submarine’s descent to the bottom of the ocean. After the Russian government lets its pride get the better of them, and refuses international help to rescue the survivors with more advanced equipment, can they be saved in time?

Kursk is based on a true story of a Russian sub that sunk in 2000 and the tragedy that follows. The feature was able to capture the factual aspects of the incident and was also able to add cinematic details to make the plot more story-like while still maintaining respect for the tragic event.

However, the events of the plot could have made for a much more exciting and suspenseful film than the makers of Kursk produced. All the major opportunities for suspense are grossly underplayed – from the suffering of the survivors underwater to the politics happening on land.

This leads audiences to feel distant from the film and unattached because emotion is not evoked from what should have been very emotive scenes.

The film does have its emotional moments especially when it comes to the families of the survivors; however, these moments are too rare and far apart for audiences to feel genuinely invested and connected to the movie and its characters.

Kursk did provide some characterisation of many of its main characters before the crisis. The wedding of one of the character’s, for example, was a good start to the film, but the audience do not get too attached to the characters, as the emotion was quickly swept out of the picture and the event listing started.

The cinematography was perhaps the one remarkable aspect of the film, with noticeably beautiful colours and differentiation between tones underwater and above, as well as several artistic frames.

As or the acting, Matthias Schoenaerts played one of the survivors and the main character. His performance was very much underplayed with not too many facial expressions and few major reactions. Playing his wife, Léa Seydoux gave a much more powerful performance, especially when she was at a press conference held to discuss the crisis; her facial expressions and reactions were superb. Max von Sydow played the government bad guy, and his performance was fitting to the character, but not especially memorable. Colin Firth played the Commodore offering foreign help; his performance was comprised of one vexed facial expression that was repeated throughout the film.

Kursk did not really succeed at the hard balance that it was trying to create, but if you are a fan of submarine movies and do not mind the lack of expected suspense, then this is for you.

Like This? Try

Poseidon (2006), All Is Lost (2013), In the Heart of the Sea (2015). 

360 Tip

This was Michael Nyqvist's final film. He died of lung cancer in June 2017, a month before shooting was finished. However, according to The Guardian, Nyqvist completed his scenes.

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