Phantom Review – A Cold War Cat and Mouse Thriller

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“Phantom,” from Trilogy Entertainment and Anchor Bay Entertainment, brings the 1960’s Cold War back into mainstream with a high stakes, cat and mouse, mind manipulation, circumventing chase that is engrossing from the beginning.

Directed and written by Todd Robinson “Phantom” stars Ed Harris and David Duchovny along with a familiar group of faces including William Fichtner, Lance Henriksen, Jonathon Schaech and Jason Beghe. “Phantom” also stars Jordan Bridges, Jason Gray-Stanford, Matt Bushell and Kip Pardue.

Phantom” is loosely based on a soviet incident in 1968 during which the submarine missed several ordered location reports. The Soviets, as in all cold war engagements, toned down the potential disaster and labeled the vessel missing.

Academy award nominee, Ed Harris portrays Demi, the son of a decorated, well known and well respected, Soviet Naval officer. Following in his father’s footsteps, he also a highly decorated officer, with this his last mission he is ready for retirement. Unknown to the crew and all but a few trusted individuals, he suffers from epileptic seizures resulting from a catastrophic at sea accident.   

Ordered to gather his crew, which are all on three week leave, some of which are getting married, others reacquainted with life, love and spouses, he gathers those available and is provided with enough to complete a full crew. Within eighteen hours of notice all are aboard an outdated, ready for dry dock, submarine.

Demi and his first mate, Alex, portrayed by William Fichtner, a dedicated officer waiting promotion and orders of his own, are informed, at dock, two passengers, Bruni, played by David Duchovny and Garin, played by Derek Magyar are to be permitted on board.  Demi, as is protocol, has been given final orders which are not opened until the vessel is at sea.

At this point, “Phantom” becomes the creation of the screenwriter, which is nothing more than masterful. He expertly weaves mind games and manipulations into the script allowing all characters to deliver exciting, interesting and gripping performances.  

The cat and mouse chase becomes a race against time and potential destruction as the ship is taken over by a radical KGB branch, those who believe in a pure KGB, zealousness, a fanaticism for the things of Stalin and the principals of Communism.  

Bruni/Duchovny and Garin/Magyar take the captain hostage and over throw the sub. What follows is the difference between radicalism and loyalty.  

The crew and captain are separated. The attempts to escape, those loyal to the identified leadership act appropriately, work for a single purpose and are not hiding. Even separated the goal is common and known. Both groups understand and work to complete that which is obvious and yet not spoken.

The orders are open and shockingly hold the keys to a nuclear showdown. The radical KGB works by circumventing the acknowledged authority with what appears a better way. The “Phantom” showdown becomes a blueprint for contemporary radicalism, by controlling the thoughts, first, through undermining the ability of the current authority, then through flattery, planting the seed of doubt that should foster a disgruntled attitude, this should be yours, you’re more talented, better, more intelligent, more qualified.  Finally, communicating through the standard, accepted, means usually reserved for the captain, indicating control has been taken and approved.

The party loyalist has control not by undermining and circumventing but through solid, proven, recognized leadership even though setbacks.

Filmed almost entirely in extremely close quarters, with the appearance of a submarine, the shots are close and a claustrophobic feeling with no escape is the undercurrent to the surface action. The dark muted tones add to the feelings of the deep, no escape, and no way out.

“Phantom” has a surprising ending. I’ve never seen an ending like this before. It was moving, unusual, unbelievable and like the tag, “you never see it coming.” The film intrigued me from the beginning. Obviously, the talent is a draw, and it was more than the sum of the award winning skills. The cat and mouse chase, the mind games and manipulations, all played so well. It is a winner for the Home Entertainment market.

Phantom” is navigating the waters of the home entertainment market and has already hit the street. “Phantom” is available on DVD/VOD. See it.

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