Kathryn BigelowUSA / UK / Germany / Canada138 minutes2002ColourEnglish
A gripping, largely Toronto-shot thriller based on a little-known but potentially world-ending incident involving a crippled Soviet nuclear sub during the height of the Cold War, K-19: The Widowmaker is one of the most expensive independent productions ever made, and 15 years later it remains the most costly live-action film ever directed by a woman. As such, the film represented one of the toughest missions of Bigelow's career, the filmmaker having struggled in the wake of the poor box-office performance of her ambitious sci-fi opus Strange Days. While K-19's less-than-stellar performance did nothing to revive the director's seriously flagging commercial fortunes, the film is a testament to Bigelow's mastery of space (with cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth's camera constantly gliding through the cramped interiors of the ill-fated sub) and her confidence with actors, as Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson face off in another of Bigelow's astute studies of alpha-male competition. The military setting also heralds the films that would make Bigelow a Hollywood player once again.