Phantom Movie Review
It's Crimson Tide, but from a Soviet perspective. Only without the accents. Perhaps learning from the mistakes of K-19: The Widowmaker, stars Ed Harris, David Duchovny and William Fichtner opt for American dialects in Phantom, a thriller about a Soviet captain who finds his boat commandeered by a KGB agent bent on starting nuclear war.
After I figured out they were supposed to be Russian - about 20 minutes into the movie - Phantom actually started to make some sense.
Disconcerting accents aside, Phantom is a harmless little thriller about two men, both dedicated to duty and country, at odds with one another. Unfortunately, "harmless little thriller" is all Phantom amounts to, thanks to perfectly fine but hardly mesmerizing direction from Todd Robinson, and a screenplay to match.
The submarine thriller subgenre is a niche but competitive space with very little room for something new. Between Das Boot, Crimson Tide, The Hunt for Red October and even U-571, among others, Phantom never really stood a chance. The $18 million budget is nothing to sneeze at, but Robinson just doesn't capture the sweat, grime and claustrophobia required to make such a movie effective, and for whatever reason the threat of nuclear war never seems all that likely, which deludes the tension even further.
With no offense intended, Duchovny is no Gene Hackman or Denzel Washington, and Harris doesn't rise to the attention as a result. Phantom is about these two men going at it, and yet sparks rarely if ever fly between the two of them. They needed to chew up the hull of the boat and then some in every scene, but they don't.
Ultimately, Phantom is no Crimson Tide. Or The Hunt for Red October. And definitely not Das Boot. It's a serviceable submarine thriller that suffers primarily by bringing nothing new to the table, and presenting a recycled story in a subpar way. Phantom simply feels... ordinary... and in this genre, ordinary doesn't cut it.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.