A missile explodes aboard a Russian nuclear sub, killing most of its crew and marooning a handful of survivors in this rare film — based on a real 2000 event — that is both a nail-biting thriller and a dissection of a government’s bureaucratic indifference.
A missile explodes aboard a Russian nuclear sub, killing most of its crew and marooning a handful of survivors in this tense, historical drama based on a real 2000 event. The sailors aboard the Kursk, exemplified by the calm stoicism of Mikhail Averin (Matthias Schoenaerts), are brave and capable but they face grim odds: Their oxygen supply is unstable and dwindling. Weighing the technological secrets the submarine contains against the lives of men whose condition is unknown, the Russians are loath to accept British help and tight-lipped about what the plans are for a rescue. The suspense and terror inexorably rise as director Thomas Vinterberg pieces together multiple strands of story that emphasize the agonizing contrast between the urgency of the sailors’ situation and the rising panic of their families with the government’s cold, bureaucratic response. Kursk is that rare film that balances a dissection of bureaucratic callousness with a nail-biting thriller.