9 November 2018.
It is summer 2000. The crew and families of the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk are celebrating the wedding of one of their sailors before the men set out to sea the next day. It is a typical joyous moment – full of drinking, dancing, speeches and camaraderie. Despite the grey northern climate and lack of money, you get the feeling of loving friends, close family ties and a great deal of Russian pride in their marine tradition.
Unfortunately this will be the last time those men will see their loved ones, for their submarine will blow up due to a malfunction and sink to the seabed the next day. 23 of the 118 men aboard will survive in a locked compartment, waiting for help from above. The hope for rescue will have your heart in your throat the whole time, as you sit warm and dry in your cinema seat.
The brilliant Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (“Festen”, “The Hunt”, “Far from the Madding Crowd”) has created a grand, magnificent film that is a tribute to the men who perished and the families they left behind. With an excellent international cast including the charismatic Belgian Matthias Schoenaerts as the captain of the submarine, the French Lea Seydoux as his wife, Colin Firth as an English naval commander, and Max von Sydow as a Russian general, Vinterberg holds us spellbound, living every taut moment alongside the protagonists. He has us claustrophobic in the submarine, outside with the increasingly concerned families, and in meetings with the desperate officials wasting precious time.
This is a damning testimony to the Russian mishandling of the crisis, as the government (under Putin) refused any international help, due to nuclear secrecy and a false national pride.
BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE ***
The El Royale at Lake Tahoe is a rundown, deserted hotel from the 1960s, when it was a hotspot for celebrities like the Rat Pack and highly-placed politicians. Into its wonderfully retro decor enter a strange slew of characters, definitely louche, and all searching for something.
There is the great Jeff Bridges playing a preacher, “Mad Men”‘s John Hamm as a slick salesman, a ruthless femme fatale played by Dakota Johnson, and a few other bizarre types you’ll discover for yourself. To top it all off, in struts the bare-chested Chris Hemsworth (“Thor”) in all his glory. What more could you ask for?!
Something between Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians”, “The Shining”, and a crazy Tarantino tale, this bloody mystery is about greed, past sins, revenge, FBI’s Hoover and even redemption…Great, colorful fun and suspense, if you don’t mind all the gore.
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.