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refreshing to encounter a movie that doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, but
simply sets out to tell a good story and fulfill the expectations of a genre
piece. Phantom is inspired by a
mysterious real-life event from 1968 involving a Soviet submarine, but
essentially it’s a good, old-fashioned submarine drama that offers a handful of
talented actors juicy parts to play. Chief among them is Ed Harris, whose
rock-solid portrayal of a career naval officer is thoroughly believable.
William Fichtner matches him as his loyal first officer. David Duchovny plays a
rogue KGB agent who’s the wild card on what is supposed to be an aging vessel’s
final voyage.

Todd Robinson gets all the details right: the setting seems palpably real, and
the actors all seem completely at home at their stations on the sub. Harris effortlessly
embodies the best qualities of leadership, playing a character whose complex
backstory is revealed one layer at a time.

The one,
overriding challenge of watching Phantom
is accepting that these characters are Russian. Robinson and/or his actors made
a decision not to attempt any kind of accent or dialect. This spares us the
spectacle of watching Americans try to convince us that they come from behind
the Iron Curtain, yet the complete lack of—what can I call it, Russian-ness?—left
me wanting.

Phantom also features some wonky visual
effects, but again one either buys into a film of this kind or not. I think the
drama inside the submarine outweighs the occasional phoniness of a miniature
shot underwater. If only I could have made the same leap of faith about the
actors’ nationality…


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