Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, Lea Seydoux, Artemiy Spiridonov, Colin Firth
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Vinterberg is predominantly known as an international director, and in his latest movie, it looks like he’s made an Oscar push with this movie back in Toronto in 2018. While The Command is a solid movie in its own right, I find it hard to believe that production companies thought this could be an Oscar-winner, as there are pretty substantial issues preventing it from reaching that plateau. A tale of two movies where one is tense and exciting and the other is drawn-out and tedious, The Command is almost a great movie and something that could’ve been an awards contender, but instead got relegated to streaming services and was relatively forgotten about.
The film follows a group of Russian soldiers serving on a submarine that is involved in an underwater accident. While most of the soldiers die during the initial incident, a small group of soldiers survives in an air pocket with a limited amount of time resources available for them before their time runs out. While their struggle continues, the Russian government must work to rescue them while dealing with international resources that will help them but are traditional adversaries of the Russian government. This back and forth takes place with the lives of these men in jeopardy over the course of 117 minutes and every moment is valuable for the sake of their families. As you might be able to figure out, the survival portion of this movie is very interesting while the government section has a lot to be desired. Seeing men bond over what very well could be their final moments alive has something instinctively human about it and something that all audiences members can relate to in some capacity. On the other side of things, watching Russian government officials negotiate in a boardroom for the other half of the movie while they decide whether or not the lives of these men are worth potentially trusting the Western allies. It’s helped a little bit by having the families of these soldiers plea to their government, but the leaders are so stiff and calculated that it makes those who are supposed to help struggling people borderline unlikable. I know based on the events surrounding this real-life incident that liberties have to be taken to create a movie that is both dramatic and entertaining, but at the same time the characters need to be a bit more complex if this was a movie that was likely intended to be a horse that the studio rode into awards season. Researching the incident after watching the movie, I didn’t realize how much has varied between what we were shown and what actually happened, specifically with events in the submarine, but once again if the movie followed these events linearly we wouldn’t have gotten anything close to the movie we did here. I give Vinterberg credit for undertaking such an adventurous and maybe not as well-known incident, but I don’t think it was exactly what he was looking for with The Command.
Overall, The Command showcases the pressure that humans face when death is imminent, but it is weighed down by a political side of things that falls flat and takes away from a more interesting portion of the movie. Even though the performances are strong from a stacked cast, it looks as though Robert Rodat’s script is a shocking miss after such an impressive career leading up to this. I’m sure everyone involved will rebound from this in their next endeavors, but it’s just disappointing that The Command isn’t the type of claustrophobic movie that could’ve made it one of the best ones of the year.
Overall Score: 6.5/10