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Thursday, 14 November 2019

Kursk: The Last Mission: A DVD review

Before proceeding, I must make it clear that this is NOT a DVD about the Battle of Kursk; it is about the loss of the Oscar-class submarine of that name.


The Oscar-class submarine Kursk (Russian: Project 949A Антей Atomnaya Podvodnaya Lodka Kursk) sank in the Barents Sea on 12th August 2000 as a result of an explosion in her forward torpedo room. It was subsequently discovered that one of her Type 65 Kit (Russian: tolstushka or 'fat girl', because of its 62cm/26-inch diameter) practice torpedoes had exploded whilst it was being loaded into a torpedo tube. This may have been due to a leak of highly volatile HTP (high test peroxide) fuel.

The initial explosion and fire are thought to have instantly killed the seven men in the torpedo room, and the subsequent blast sent a shock wave through the submarine's compartments as far as the Command Centre that killed or incapacitated everyone in them. The fire then set off the warheads of seven of the torpedoes in the torpedo room (seven distinct and rapid explosions were measured by acoustic instruments aboard other ships in the Barents Sea), and the Kursk quickly sank to the sea bottom. The automatic fail-safe systems on the submarine's two nuclear reactors immediately shut them down as hundreds of tons of water poured into the submarine's hull through a large hole that had been caused by the explosions.

Unfortunately for those crew members who survived the explosions, the crew escape capsule was inaccessible (it was in one of the flooded compartments) and the rescue buoy that should have automatically been deployed to indicate to surface ships where the submarine was, had been disabled for operational reasons (i.e. fears that it might deploy by accident and identify the submarine's position to non-Russian warships). As a result, they eventually drowned before they could be rescued.

The film tells the story of what happened up to and including the sinking of the Kursk, and then deals with what happened afterwards. The Russian Navy's initial response was slow and seemed more concerned with secrecy than mounting a rescue, and the way in which that they dealt with the families of the crew was despicable. They refused help from the Royal Navy and the Royal Norwegian Navy until it was far too late to rescue any survivors, and their own deep-sea rescue craft was shown to be ineffective due to poor maintenance.

This was a very interesting film, and I recommend anyone with an interest in recent naval history to watch it.

KURSK: THE LAST MISSION is an English-language film directed by Thomas Vinterberg, based on Robert Moore's book A TIME TO DIE, and made by a group of French-Belgian production companies. It was released in 2018, and stars Matthias Schoenaerts, Colin Firth, Léa Seydoux, Peter Simonischek, Max von Sydow, Matthias Schweighöfer, and Michael Nyqvist.

4 comments:

  1. The book (new update on A Time To Die), which has the same cover as the DVD, is in The Works (UK) at the moment for £3, down from a tenner. I started it today, so your film review Most timely :-)

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    1. Norm,

      Thanks for the heads up. I'll look out for a copy when I next visit THE WORKS. In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy reading the book.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. I've seen the film and also thoroughly recommend it, although I rather knew what the outcome was going to be. If you like Soviet sub disaster films, then K17 Widowmaker is also excellent.

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    1. Martin Rapier,

      I've also seen K-17: THE WIDOWMAKER, and both films are excellent re-tellings of the stories of the two disasters.

      I've only been aboard a couple of submarines (both were museum exhibits), and I don't know how anyone can spend any length of time in one. I certainly couldn't!

      All the best,

      Bob

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