'The Command'

Based on a true story, “The Command,” now available to purchase for home viewing, tells of the Russian submarine Kursk and the 2000 disaster that led to the deaths of the entire crew. Matthias Schoenaerts, Lea Seydoux, Colin Firth, Peter Simonischek, and Max von Sydow bring this sad story to the screen.

After an explosion on the K-141 Kursk, a nuclear-powered submarine, the sub sank to the bottom of the Barents Sea. In total, 23 sailors survived and during the next days tried to stay alive and follow procedure while they waited for their fellow sailors to rescue them.

With the sub at the bottom of the sea, anxious families waited for news of their loved ones. Tanya Averina (Seydoux), whose husband Mikhail (Schoenaerts) was on the sub, did everything in her power to get information about the situation, however, at every turn she was met with resistance by the Russian officials, including the man in charge (von Sydow) who refused to deviate from his conviction that only Russians should rescue their fellow countrymen. Meanwhile British Commodore Russell (Firth) was standing by waiting to be called upon to aid in the rescue. He was ready to assist the remaining Russian sailors as soon as he heard about the accident, though he was not given permission to do so.

Had the Russians not been so determined not to include foreigners in the rescue, the men would most certainly have been saved. They were ready to come home and were waiting for a rescue team. Unfortunately, time was not on their side and once the stubborn Russian leaders decided to accept foreign assistance, it was too late.

The surviving family members of those sailors included 71 children who were left without their fathers, and the incident served as a potential turning point in mutual cooperation between countries.

Besides the political aspect of the story, there is the familial aspect as the director Thomas Vinterberg decided to focus much of the film on the families of the men. He discussed this in the bonus “making of” feature, and the actors also talked about making the film and working with Vinterberg.

The screenplay was based on Robert Moore’s book “A Time to Die,” though the movie takes dramatic license with some of the characters. It is frustrating for viewers to see the British ready and willing to help immediately but unable to do so due to the Russian leaders’ denial of foreign help.

“The Command” is available on Blu-ray combo pack and DVD Tuesday.