starring Ed Harris, David Duchovny and William Fitchner
written and directed by Todd Robinson
This is the third movie I have seen recently featuring William Fitchner. Strange. It never rains but it pours. Is that’s what’s called serendipity? Other movies about missing, lost or rogue Soviet submarines that I have seen include The Hunt for Red October (1990, directed by John McTiernan, starring Sean Connery, based on the novel by Tom Clancy), and The Widowmaker (2002, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, starring Harrison Ford). Phantom is loosely based on a real incident with a Soviet nuclear missile submarine - the K-129 - that disappeared in the Pacific Ocean in 1968.
Communist zealots aboard the boat, led by David Duchovny, commandeer it from the Captain, Ed Harris, and plan to catalyze a war with America, a final showdown between Socialism and Capitalism. The Captain struggles to retake control of the boat and avert a war, which he does.
The real incident of submarine K-129 is still shrouded in mystery, both of the unknown and the officially secret varieties. In 1974 the United States was able to salvage some artifacts from the almost 5km-deep wreck, but it was never able to raise it to the surface. The Pentagon remains tight-lipped about the operation and what was recovered. Was there a mutiny aboard that caused loyalist sailors to deliberately scuttle the ship? Was it fatally damaged through collision with tracking American warships? Was there a hydrogen explosion on board resulting from seawater contamination of its batteries? Did a missile explode because of a leaky hatch seal (either the warhead itself, or the rocket’s fuel)? No one knows, and it is impossible to know, hence fuel for movie plots featuring missing Soviet submarines.
Of course Russia lost a nuclear missile submarine more recently, as well. Remember the Kursk incident (submarine K-141) in August 2000? What is it with Russian subs? The Kursk was supposed to represent the highest technical achievement of Russian submarines. It was supposed to be unsinkable, able to withstand a direct torpedo hit. After an onboard explosion during naval exercises it went down like a rock with all hands.