Mixed or average reviews - based on 35 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 35
  2. Negative: 2 out of 35
  1. 75
    There is one surprise in the movie, a decision having nothing to do with the reactor, that depends entirely on the ability of the characters to act convincingly under enormous pressure; casting stars of roughly equal weight helps it to work.
  2. 75
    K-19 will not go down in the annals of cinema as one of the great submarine stories, but it is an engaging and exciting narrative of Man confronting the Demons of his own fear and paranoia.
  3. What's really needed is a story with some sizzle, but Bigelow, in K-19, can't seem to decide whether she's making a shoot-the-works underwater rouser, like ''U-571'' or ''Crimson Tide,'' or a lofty historical message movie that hits us with the breaking news that the arms race was, in every sense, a poisonous game.
  4. The movie gradually works its way, with quiet intelligence and apparent conviction, until there's no turning from it. An hour in, and we're on that boat.
  5. As a technical achievement, K-19 is right up there with Das Boot. Don't expect much dramatic depth, though. The fathoms descended in this movie are strictly nautical.
  6. Rarely has a major motion picture -- and this one is major by virtue of its misplaced ambition as well as its budget -- been afflicted by such flagrant dissonance between subject and style.
  7. K-19's determination to push hard for self-congratulatory morals and convenient resolutions undercut the film's strengths and make it more conventional.
  8. 75
    A relentlessly serious action movie, characterized by, of all things, sorrow.
  9. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    The truly heartbreaking sacrifice of a few extraordinarily heroic men is lost under the ponderous score and a series of even heavier speeches.
  10. 67
    Remains an above-average and affecting descent into both heretofore unknown Soviet naval history and the always popular submarine-in-peril genre.
  11. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    Impressive and heartfelt.
  12. Despite drawing from one of the most powerful and true stories from the Cold War, K-19 is only moderately moving.
  13. Perhaps the post-cold-war attitudes behind this film are progressive, but the same old pre-nuclear-war worship of the military goes all but unchallenged.
  14. The lead actors come from America, Ireland, Iceland, England and South Africa. Who decided they should attempt Russian accents? Neeson forgets his, Ford wavers in and out, and real Russians in the cast make the others sound inauthentic.
  15. 80
    May be a bit too grim and claustrophobic to become a certifiable summer blockbuster, but it's a pulse-pounding thriller that brings one of the Cold War's darkest and deadliest episodes to the big screen.
  16. 50
    The script doesn't give Bigelow enough human stuff to balance the mechanical. For good or ill, like so many other submarine thrillers before it, K-19 is more about the machine than the men.
  17. The movie becomes an American salute to military patriotism, anybody's military patriotism. Think of it as "A Few Good Reds."
  18. Bigelow gives this film edge, tension and something you aren't expecting: a woman's touch for teasing out the buried emotion beneath those stoic surfaces.
  19. I don't think that a woman behind the camera necessarily affects the tenor of what is on screen, but never before have I seen a men-of-war film more notable for its psychology than its spectacle.
  20. As a grueling "trip" movie and cautionary tale of the nuclear age, K-19 fits the bill. The harsh depiction of everyday life in the Soviet navy and numerous scenes of seamen exposing themselves to lethal doses of radiation are profoundly disturbing.
  21. (Director Bigelow) piles up one nerve-racking crisis after another, interspersed with moments of ethereal, almost otherworldly beauty.
  22. 60
    After spending so much time letting the characters' deeds do the talking, the film veers into overkill, which comes as a letdown. But the actions linger longer than the words.
  23. 63
    It took guts to bring this story to the screen, but at its core it has the wrong stuff.
  24. The Cold War isn't exactly a hot ticket right now, but K-19 punches up the timeless aspects of the story -- adventure, danger, teamwork, noble self-sacrifice and two forceful actors butting heads, even if you don't buy them as Russian for a moment.
  25. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Though this saga would be terrific to read about, it is dicey screen material that only a genius should touch. With no genius in sight, K-19 might be headed for meltdown.
  26. It's a pretty good sub movie, with some pretty good performances, that, alas, somewhat disintegrates in the last half-hour.
  27. 63
    Despite its exciting moments, the film is too long.
  28. 30
    A long, lumbering brute of a movie, no easier to maneuver than the vessel itself. [29 July 2002, p. 92]
  29. With uncommon ineptitude even by the standards of contemporary action flicks, Kyle's script submerges the inherently dramatic tale of the K-19 under a pile of clichés, while failing to tell you enough about the characters for their actions to make much sense.
  30. Reviewed by: Robert Koehler
    Obediently follows the verities of the submarine movie and its true story origins but without the imagination needed to refresh the genre.
  31. Of all the A-list men playing dedicated authority figures, Star Wars alums Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson remain among the most amusing and pleasing, which is why K-19: The Widowmaker glides along engagingly rather than sinking.
  32. 70
    As square-shouldered as you'd expect of a National Geographic co-production. But Bigelow hits all her marks and more within the narrow parameters.
  33. 60
    While watchable, skews more toward the drier expectations fostered by that publication's name then the more exciting, explosive ones associated with the genre.
  34. 50
    K-19 is so unnervingly square that it seems eerily like Party-sanctioned Soviet filmmaking: Its Motherland-loving sailors, myth-making shots of K-19 and displays of heroism are worthy of the Young Lenin Pioneers' Handbook.
  35. Reviewed by: David Grove
    A cold war thriller told from the Russian point of view which gives it the appearance of having more credibility and dark truth than if this were an American story.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 39 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 13 out of 19
  2. Negative: 4 out of 19
  1. Vladimir
    Dec 28, 2002
    I understand that the most of American viewers did not like this movie, because popular Hollywood tricks such as mass drinking scenes and I understand that the most of American viewers did not like this movie, because popular Hollywood tricks such as mass drinking scenes and masturbating in a latrine were cut from the movie. But still there are some people, who see and appreciate great job of producers, who has shown us almost forgotten history. It was a hard film to see, at least for me, who knows what radiation is. Full Review »