A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
This movie depicts a crew of Russian seamen -- who were the enemies of the United States at the time the movie takes place (1961) -- not as enemies but as living, feeling people just like anyone else. The men learn to work together and overcome their fears, acting selflessly and heroically in the face of a potential worldwide disaster.
Positive Role Models
The crew's divided loyalty between captains creates serious friction on board. But over the course of the movie, they all learn to trust one another and to work together. Captain Polenin learns to let the men trust him rather than bullying them into respecting him. Some characters, notably Lieutenant Radtchinko, are given chances to overcome their fears.
Violence & Scariness
The movie has relatively few violent/frightening images, but they're all extremely powerful. Several men who enter a radioactive chamber are exposed to heavy doses of radiation and emerge with burning skin (sometimes vomiting, too). Later they're shown bandaged, shaking, and suffering. There's an overall atmosphere of fear and despair. In addition, one character pulls a gun, and another character is struck and killed by a truck. A man gets his hand stuck in a moving chain, another hits his head in the same accident, and there's some blood. Scenes from a violent propaganda film shown within the movie include images of the KKK.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There are some "d--k" jokes, and several men drop their pants to "moon" for a photograph. One passionate kissing scene as a man says goodbye to his girlfriend.
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Infrequent use of words like "d--k," "bulls--t," and "jackass."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The main character smokes in one scene. A seaman shows up to his post drunk. The men drink toasts of vodka before shipping out, and on the submarine they occasionally drink red wine (which is said to slow the effects of the radiation).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this serious Cold War-era submarine thriller directed by Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow is loosely based on true events that theoretically could have sparked another world war. Though the movie has very little language, nudity, or drinking, it's a frightening and intense experience. The violence is realistic and makes a definite impact, mostly in the scenes of men entering the radioactive chamber and emerging, burned and sick. But for those with strong stomachs, it's a gripping, powerful, and inspiring experience. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Stuck with an ill-timed summer release in 2002, Kathryn Bigelow's intense, harrowing K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER received mixed reviews, many of which called the film overly serious and too long. Now that Bigelow has won an Oscar for Best Director, it's time to give the movie a second chance.
Bigelow directs with lean efficiency, moving through the submarine's narrow passages swiftly and cleanly. She focuses on a choice few of the men and manages to capture a cross section of them, representing all their hopes and fears in just a few strokes. The movie does indulge in a few "based on a true story" conventions, and the wobbly Russian accents are sometimes distracting, but these are minor quibbles in a brutally effective, brilliantly constructed dramatic thriller.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.