In Phantom, Demi (played wonderfully well by Ed Harris) is a veteran Soviet navy captain just about to finish his career, one in which he has failed to live up to the legacy left behind by his illustrious father. His last assignment is to lead an old diesel powered submarine (which he happens to have a past with) on a top secret mission. From the beginning of the mission itself, Demi doesn’t quite have a good feeling about it and the same is compounded by the presence of KGB agent Bruni (David Duchovny, who I am seeing in a movie after quite a few years now).
As the submarine goes out into deep sea, Bruni reveals that the mission is to test the prototype of a new cloaking device, The Phantom which would alter their acoustic signature and provide them with the ability to cloak themselves as any ship of their choice to anybody tracking them. Not entirely convinced about the fact that this testing is authorized by the authorities, when Demi questions Bruni’s intentions, he is then captured at gunpoint by Bruni and his cronies who take over the ship, which has a missile with a nuclear payload.
What Bruni’s intentions are and whether Demi thwarts them forms the crux of the rest of the movie. Suffice to say that if one is a fan of the conspiracy-thriller genre of movies, this one will keep you riveted till the very end. The fact that the entire plot takes place inside the submarine itself means that it suffers from an extremely claustrophobic environment. If you have seen other movies such as K-19 The Widowmaker and The Hunt for Red October which are based on submarines then you would be familiar with the fact that these movies are not for viewers who enjoy the long shots and glorious vistas of the surroundings. The fact that these stories take place in such compressed spaces means that the plot, the acting, the screenplay, everything has to be extremely tight and taut.
And that probably is where The Phantom fails a little. In the beginning, there are these segues where we are given a peek into Demi’s troubled history with this particular diesel submarine, which amounts to nothing conclusive by the end of the movie. And the last five odd minutes of the movie also leaves one with a vaguely dissatisfied feeling. The ending probably could have been written better. But then, given that this is a story supposedly based on true events, I am guessing the writers didn’t want to tinker around too much.
All in all, watch this movie only if you are a huge fan of this genre, and if you really want to see some classic Ed Harris acting on screen. Otherwise, this is a safe miss.
All images in this post have been sourced from IMDB.