I liked K-19. If you enjoy claustrophobia or radiation poisoning, this movie is for you! The first half of it was especially tense, they really gave you a good sense of how cramped and horrible submarines must be.

I think they got some of the physics wrong, but not in plot-critical ways.

Really minor spoiler that you already saw in the commercials:

I thought it was impossible for a reactor coolant failure to result in a bomb-like detonation? I thought that kind of slowly-ramping-up chain reaction would just get you a small sun that would then melt through the floor and head core-ward? They were also worried about the warheads detonating, which I thought was similarly impossible to do by accident. You can get a big toxic mess, but not an explosion.


Tags: , ,
Current Music: Curve -- Recovery ♬

9 Responses:

  1. aml says:

    as for the reactor, you're probably right, and i did notice in the commercials that the guy i assumed was some sort of engineer was talking to the cap'n about hiroshima.

    but, the accidental detonation of a first generation soviet submarine ballistic missile... who knows. seems plausible without knowing any actual specific technical data.

    by the way, does anybody know if they decided what happened to the kursk?

  2. bdu says:

    that was always my understanding of it the reactor can spread radiation around, but not detonate...

    as for the missiles, I was under the impression that (at least US, can't speak for russian) nukes had to be armed before ANYTHING could detonate them, and even then they required impact.

    • coldacid says:

      Depending on the reactor size, you can go from the effects of a small dirty bomb, to vaporizing quite a bit of water. I don't think that the reactors in a nuclear sub could go that far, but I know the nuke plant by me could take off a decent chunk of suburb.

      And for the missiles, the Russians were much more controlling about the missiles. The Kremlin trusted their sub crews less than they trusted themselves and were also very nervous about being the first to strike.

  3. octal says:

    You could certainly get a steam explosion from combining a reactor with seawater, and naval reactors are far more high-power than commercial land reactors. I wouldn't say it's impossible to get some kind of nasty fast criticality on a naval reactor; not an ideal nuclear bomb, but some kind of asymmetric detonation equivalent.

    With nuclear warheads, the fission part would either get nothing or an asymmetric detonation (==spew radioactive waste, but not cause a >1kt explosion). A gun arrangement might have a higher risk of accidental detonation than the spherical kind (little boy vs. fat man...); modern weapons are tamper-resistant (and on sufficient tamper events, will asymmetrically detonate themselves to kill their molestors); I doubt early generation (soviet) weapons would have this.

  4. darwinx0r says:

    For reference, the Directory of K-19 also directed Point Break.

    Take from that what you will. :)


    • jwz says:

      That's the only reason I went to see this movie. I love everything she's done.

      • cyantist says:

        Keep in mind that Darwin watched "Point Break" with me the other night after making fun of it for hours and actually enjoyed it. (Sticks out tongue and points fingers)

        I thought it was downright entertaining. Surfers, guns, tankgirl, FBI, dumbass keanu, president's masks, and meatball sandwiches. What more could you ask for?

  5. zoe_bat says:

    As to your spoiler? Common.... the movie was clear that the guy was "first in his class" - but a kid who didn't know all that much in practical terms. Sub-flick fanatics could write that off to his ignorance and maintain our suspicion of disbelief. That way the drama is reasonably maintained (they believed they could create a huge mess and it also gave them a reasonable plot motivation to act heroically.) In reality did the crew believe that the nukes would go.... (pull the detonators on your way out the door?)

    Society for Military History is the leading academic group (like the kids at UC Berkeley think their journal is the most valid) but they don't have a review up for it yet. I just love their movie reviews and they make a good read.

    My beef with the movie? I couldn't believe the Russians weren't a TAD more aware of radiation protocols. The worst is when the officer in charge of the reactor (the kid) comes out and the captain holds both of his shoulders while he speaks to him. After the kid is left away HE WIPES HIS FACE. What the hell? With the soup? (I winced) In the final scene the make-up artists skipped over how he surely must have picked up at least skin cancer (and some scars). Alrightly, see I was already bugged by how they were so sloppy with containing the exposed and wet sailors.

    ALSO, I would like to think that the mutiny was based on something close to actual events. It was giving me flash backs to that crummy Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington sub-flick.

  6. agentcooper says:

    FWIW, a former boss of mine took part in the nuclear disarmament inspections before doing a stint at NORAD. So he had some first-hand knowledge of American/Soviet nukes and delivery systems.

    He told me that US ballistic nukes have numerous safeguards against detonation. For example, not only do they have to be armed, but you need to feed them complex encrypted numbers to do so, and then they have to be moving faster than the speed of sound to detonate. So you can't blow up an American nuke while it's at rest in a train car. (They don't need to "impact" -- most nukes are for airburst or tunnelling to reach underground hardened bunkers.)

    In contrast, he told me that Soviet nukes were armed by keypads. And that the keypads were secured by padlocks. The kind you can cut off with a heavy pair of boltcutters. And (at least back in the day) they had no such velocity-sensing circuitry to prevent at-rest detonation.

    I didn't realize Bigelow directed this movie -- it just made my must-see list.

    - Cooper