On March 8, 1968, about 1,800 miles northwest of Oahu in the
How close did the world come to a serious, serious problem that day? What really happened? Did the commander go rogue, and why?
Regarding "Phantom," here's another matter of speculation: How did this submarine movie turn out so unseaworthy?
Facts first, then opinions. This is a no-dialect movie. Nobody does a Slavic accent; rather, the American actors, chiefly
Just back from a three-month tour of duty, Capt. Dmitri Zubov takes command of the aging nuclear-armed missile, which is equipped with a sonar-repelling device being tested by the cryptic operatives onboard. These men have "ruthless secret service who don't take nyet for an answer" written all over their foreheads, and they want the sub for their own high-risk purposes. Harris' captain, in between visions of flames and dying men, refuses to give ground, setting a long, narrow, clammy stage for a showdown.
The screenwriter and director
Robinson is undone partly by his own workmanlike touch as a writer, and partly by matters of casting. I like Harris, and he's quite moving here, but every time Duchovny reappears the overall energy level sinks to crush depth. Fichtner, a longtime supporting player, clearly appreciates the opportunity to tackle a larger and more sympathetic role than usual. He conveys that enjoyment to the audience, in the service of his character. Nice job. All around him, though, "Phantom" makes a middling suspense case for its fictional scenario of what happened, down there in the depths of the Cold War.