If there is one thing you can rely on from Ed Harris, it is an assured performance.

Ed has popped up in a few straight-to-DVD releases over the past few months, adding a welcome gloss to films such as Sweet Vengeance.

But here he is centre stage, taking on the role of an aging Russian submarine captain in a thriller that lives in the shadow of the likes of The Hunt For Red October and Crimson Tide.

Trying to distance itself from those flicks by claiming to be a true story (only for the closing credits to admit nobody knows what actually happened), Phantom proves a tense thriller that is enjoyably watchable from start to finish.

The film takes very little time in getting going (and is set in the Cold War era), with Lance Henriksen’s admiral sending Captain Demi (Harris) on a classified mission on a rickety old sub, its last mission before being sold off to the Chinese.

Due to the mission being so hastily put together, Demi is unable to assemble all of his crew, with the rest populated by sailors chosen by those above.

Even more suspiciously, the crew are also joined by two KGB agents (one played by David Duchovny), who intend to ‘collect data’.

Before long though it becomes clear their mission may be something of world importance, with rogue agents, crew mutinies, talk of World War III and nuclear warheads coming thick and fast.

To divulge too much would be to give too much away, as one of the pleasures of Phantom is the constant twists and turns of the plot.

Some are telegraphed, some come as a surprise and some don’t really make sense, but it certainly keeps you guessing.

Performances are key here – hardly surprising when you consider the vast bulk of the film takes place in dank, cramped conditions.

Harris is on fine form, playing a character with his own murky past without losing the sympathy of the audience, while Duchovny makes for a smooth ‘villain’.

There is also excellent support from the likes of William Fichtner, Jonathon Schaech and Sean Patrick Flanery.

Although all of the crew are Russian, nobody attempts a dodgy accent, which to be honest is probably a welcome relief.

I suppose as the film is set on a submarine I have to crowbar the word claustrophobic in here somewhere, but the truth is, at times, it really is that tense.

Writer/director Todd Robinson does a good job of cranking up the atmosphere, no mean feat when chunks of the film are crew members simply staring at some off-camera clanking as subs rattle past each other.

In fact, I can find very few faults with Phantom, which proves another one of those films where you wonder just why it escaped a full-scale cinema release.

But now we all have the chance to check it out – and I recommend you do.

EXTRAS: Four featurettes, trailer

VERDICT: [rating=4]

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.