Military films tend to cover moments of courage under fire that conclude with rousing victory, which makes this tragic depiction feel all the more gripping, vital, and necessary. In the case of the Kursk, the incident is shocking because it was all so avoidable. The smallest bit of give by the Northern Fleet's superiors could have saved lives. Drama and suspense build moment by moment, and all seems lost when suddenly a ray of hope shines. So much hope, though, that it's crushing when the film has no Hollywood ending, but a conclusion as cold and harsh as Siberia.
It would be easy for The Command to slip into politics (*cough cough* Putin), but it chooses to instead focus on what went wrong, the bravery of the explosion's initial survivors, and the families who wouldn't be silenced. American viewers get the opportunity to feel a connection with the Russian people by seeing them how we see ourselves: loving, hardworking, and family oriented. That said, in some cases the lack of a Russian accent is distracting; for instance, viewers have to forcibly remind themselves that Max Von Sydow is playing a Russian, rather than one of the Brits. The film is aimed at adults, but the point of view continually shifts to that of Mikhail's son, Misha (Artemiy Spiridonov, one of the few Russian-born actors), who silently observes the injustice delivered by untrustworthy military leaders. Fittingly, it's the child who gets the last word, with director Thomas Vinterberg symbolically passing the torch to the next generation as an encouragement that they can choose to put people's needs over politics.