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Todd Robinson
Ed Harris, David Duchovny, William Fichtner, Lance Henriksen, Johnathon Schaech, Jason Beghe, Dagmara Dominczyk, Derek Magyar,Sean Patrick Flanery
Writing Credits:
Todd Robinson

You'll never see it coming.

At the height of the cold war, the world holds its breath when a Soviet submarine armed with nuclear missiles goes missing in the Pacific. On board the vessel, the battle-tested captain (Harris) and a rogue KGB agent (Duchovny) are waging a life-and-death game of cat and mouse. With enemy forces closing in and time running out, the captain fights to keep control with nuclear armageddon hanging in the balance. Starring four-time Academy Award nominee Ed Harris, Golden Glober winner David Duchovny, and William Fichtner.

Box Office:
$18 million.
Opening Weekend
$508.000 thousand on 1118 screens.
Domestic Gross
$1.035 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 6/25/2013

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Todd Robinson and Actor Ed Harris
• “Facing the Apocalypse” Featurette
• “The Real Phantom” Featurette
• “Jeff Rona: Scoring Phantom” Featurette
• Music Video
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Phantom [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 3, 2013)

Submarine-based thrillers don’t materialize frequently, but they come from a genre with a good history. As such, when 2013’s Phantom showed up on my radar – or sonar, if you prefer – I wanted to give it a look.

Set in May 1968, Soviet Naval Captain Demi (Ed Harris) stands on the verge of forced retirement, but he gets assigned to take control of the run-down sub B-67 to approach a US fleet amassed in the Pacific. Demi quickly reunites his crew and finds himself saddled with two new additions. Technicians from the “Special Projects Institute”, they come on board to test prototypes. Though Demi acts as though he knows neither, comments from one of them – Mr. Bruni (David Duchovny) – indicate otherwise.

Once at sea, Demi discovers a few secrets. He finds some suspicious new crewmembers and learns that the “technicians” are actually radical KGB agents. Onboard to test a device called the “Phantom”, Demi and Bruni butt heads and wind up with a potential turf war over the sub and its nuclear missiles.

That sounds like a pretty exciting scenario – does Phantom deliver the expected tension and drama? To a reasonable degree, I’d say it does. While it never provides great intensity, it forms a compelling enough narrative that keeps us with it.

While many movies would telegraph all their points, Pbantom keeps things more reserved. Sure, we quickly get a sense that Bruni will be the villain, but we don’t get beaten over the head with this, and the narrative gets to unfold at its own rate.

That means we don’t feel rushed, and the deliberate pace allows events to progress in a natural manner. It helps that the film features characters who might not be what they seem, and I don’t mean in the “secret agent” sense. I don’t want to expose secrets about Demi in advance, but he comes out as a more flawed personality than what he usually find in films such as this. Some of the other participants seem more cliché, but none undercut the film.

Though I will say this: I know other flicks have done it, but it remains somewhat disconcerting to hear Soviet characters speak with American accents. To some degree, movie-makers end up in a “no-win” situation: do you go for American actors who fake Russian accents or just let them use their own? (Yeah, I know they could cast Russian actors, but that’s not realistic for an American film with box office hopes.)

In this case, the American accents tend to distract – for a while, at least. It just seems weird to accept Americans as Soviets without anything much to brand them as such. Still, it’s not a big flaw, and we get used to the voices soon enough.

I can’t say the same for the score, which tends toward the heavy-handed side of the street. While not a constant distraction, the music tries to do too much of the thinking for us, and that’s a particular issue given the generally even-handed nature of the rest of the film. I don’t find the score to be a tremendous issue, but I’d have preferred the music to remain more low-key.

Still, Phantom mostly adds up to a good entry in its genre. It provides an involving tale that it relates at a deliberate, engaging pace. This semi-throwback works nicely.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio A-/ Bonus B-

Phantom appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though not a great image, the movie looked fine.

Sharpness could be a little iffy, as some wide shots veered toward mild softness. However, those issues weren’t severe, so most of the flick demonstrated solid clarity. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws failed to mar the presentation as well.

Colors tended toward the modern Hollywood palette of teal and orange, though not in a severe Michael Bay way. Though these dominated, they didn’t overwhelm, and the hues seemed appropriate. Blacks were reasonably deep and dense, and shadows showed acceptable smoothness. Nothing here really excelled, but the image held up well.

I felt more impressed with the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. Like many other sub-based films, this one used all the channels to create an involving, immersive experience. Various mechanical and water-based components popped up in the different channels and meshed together to form a smooth, engulfing soundscape. This was an active and impressive soundfield.

Audio quality also functioned nicely. Music was full and rich, while effects showed strong accuracy; those elements demonstrated good clarity and solid low-end. Dialogue appeared natural and clear. The soundtrack added to the cinematic experience.

As we move to extras, we begin with an audio commentary from writer/director Todd Robinson and actor Ed Harris. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the project’s roots and development, story/characters and the historical background for the material, sets and locations, effects and visual design, cinematography and editing, cast and performances, and a few other areas.

Though Harris throws in the occasional remark, Robinson does the vast majority of the speaking here. That’s fine with me, as he delivers a solid overview of his film. He touches on a nice variety of topics and even defends the lack of Russian accents on display. Expect to learn a lot in this useful piece.

Three featurettes follow. Facing the Apocalypse runs 12 minutes, 58 seconds and includes notes from Robinson, Harris, producers John Watson and Pen Densham, producer/actor Julian Adams, cinematographer Byron Werner, and actors David Duchovny and Johnathon Schaech. The show looks at memories of the Cold War and the history behind the film’s tale, story, characters and script, shooting in a submarine location, cinematography, cast and performances, and some effects. Given the brevity of this program, I expected little from it, but it actually packs in a lot of good details. This turns into a tight, efficient overview.

In the six-minute, three-second The Real Phantom, we get comments from Robinson and technical advisor/Red Star Rogue author Kenneth Sewell. As expected, we learn some details about the facts that inspired the movie. We’ve heard a little of this elsewhere but get a solid recap here.

Finally, Jeff Rona: Scoring Phantom lasts three minutes and involves composer Rona. He tells us about his musical choices for the film. This is an awfully short featurette, but it still delivers a reasonable amount of useful material.

We also find a Music Video for “An Ocean Away” by Rachel Fannen. This isn’t a great song, but the video’s interesting and moody. At least it avoids the usual “shots from the movie” clichés.

The disc opens with ads for A Good Day to Die Hard and 12 Rounds II: Reloaded. Under Sneak Peek, we find promos for Broken City, The Americans Season One, Stoker and Killing Lincoln. No trailer for Phantom shows up here.

While not on the level of the best submarine-based thrillers, Phantom holds its own. The movie delivers a compelling story that it tells in a reasonably satisfying manner, even with a few misfires along the way. The Blu-ray provides good picture, terrific audio and a few informative bonus materials. This becomes a nice release for an enjoyable film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.125 Stars Number of Votes: 8
7 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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