Taut, tense submarine drama is entertaining despite cliches.
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Based on 3 reviews
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Phantom is a taut submarine drama, supposedly based on actual events, about a Russian sub that may have come close to triggering a nuclear war at the height of the Cold War. Ed Harris stars as the captain, and David Duchovny is a KGB agent with a hidden agenda. Expect several intense fight scenes, including shootouts in the tight confines of the sub and strategic underwater combat as the captain is hunted by other subs. Weapons include guns and knives; characters are killed with both, some bloodily (there's one suicide via gunshot, shown from a distance). There's also moderate drinking and some swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t").
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What's the Story?
After 76 days at sea, Captain Demi (Ed Harris) and his submarine crew are ready for some much-needed leave, but they're suddenly recalled for a secret mission. It's 1968, the height of the Cold War, and Demi has been asked to field test a new device, the PHANTOM, that could shift the balance of power. But he can't tell whether the KGB agent (David Duchovny) who's joined the ship is there to evaluate the gadget or use it to start a nuclear war. William Fichtner co-stars as Demi's executive officer, who must decide which side to take.
Is It Any Good?
This movie is well executed, so while it may not seem especially original, it's still a decent way to spend a couple of hours. There are several standard components of a submarine movie: the captain with a stopwatch to time drills and approaching torpedoes, the dive that goes too deep, the threat of slow asphyxiation, and the isolation that comes from making tough decisions deep below the surface, unable to radio command for a second opinion. Phantom has all of those cliches and a few more classic sub tropes, and yet it still manages to tell a decent tale.
Harris and Fichtner stand out as men just trying to do the right thing -- in this case, preventing nuclear war. Duchovny is less credible as a hardline KGB agent who's intent on carrying out his mission; he often seems close to smirking when he needs to take himself seriously. (By contrast, the film as a whole -- supposedly based on actual events -- takes itself seriously even when it's treading ground that's been covered many times before in other undersea films.)
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Phantom's violence. Is it necessary to the story? Does it seem realistic? How does it compare to more over-the-top scenes in larger-scale action movies? Which has greater impact?
How does Phantom compare to other well-known submarine films? What are the common cliches to be found in the genre, and how many can you spot here?
Why do you think David Duchovny's character is so convinced that the United States wants to start a war? Does he really want nuclear war?
- In theaters: March 1, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: June 25, 2013
- Cast: David Duchovny, Ed Harris, William Fichtner
- Director: Todd Robinson
- Studio: RCR Media Group
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence
- Last updated: January 27, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
War Games in the water; older teens and up.
A very tense and exciting war movie.
K-19: The Widowmaker
Intense wartime submarine movie celebrates heroism.
For kids who love thrills
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