Phantom (2013) is a film set in the turbulent times of the cold war, a time of political strife where nuclear fallout was very much a possibility. However, it’s often been a concept that’s hard to express in film, because it’s hard to depict a solely political conflict, while still managing to be an entertaining piece of cinema. It’s a very ambitious project from Director Todd Robinson, that’s not necessarily based on fact but speculates based on it. Its cast of fairly underrated and undercasted actors are certainly to be appreciated. The film stars Ed Harris, David Duchovny, and William Fichtner all in leading roles.
The film revolves around Demi (Ed Harris), an old and shamed soviet submarine captain closed to retirement. He is a navy personnel haunted by his father’s sheer success, and his own inability to live up to his father’s legacy. He is asked to go on a final mission with his crew, his commanding officer being the up and coming Alex Kozlov (William Fichtner) soon to be promoted. Things get complicated when members of the KGB join the crew, and are the only ones who have access to the secret mission objectives. The objective is to test a cloaking device known as the phantom, which can easily fool the American sonar systems into thinking the submarine is a humble merchant vessel, or any other number of inconspicuous crafts. Bruni (David Duchovny) the leader of the KGB takes control of the ship, in an attempt to abandon the mission objectives, and cause nuclear war by attacking American forces, while disguised as the chinese. However, Demi and his loyal crew thwart his plans, as Demi and his officer Alex escape the ship safely.
The story is basically a theory as to why an un-detonated nuclear warhead was found at the bottom of the ocean, as the pre-credit text at the end tells us. The story isn’t bad per say, but the script is incredibly clunky, and slow. In addition it’s kind of hard to have an entire story take place on a submarine, doesn’t really allow the plot to develop well. The special effects were incredibly minimal, and didn’t bring life to the true danger of the situation.
The cast of Phantom are good actors, and do try to bring life to the Phantom’s fairly dull and weak script. I personally didn’t hate the film, and thought it was reasonable if you were interested in the subject matter. However, in it’s economic takings it’s by every definition a box office flop, and a critical failure, widely panned by the likes of Rotten Tomatoes. I didn’t really think it deserved that, I saw the film more as lacking, or mediocre than just simply awful. Phantom won’t blow you away, but it’s performances are reasonable and could be seen as an interesting premise if nothing else.