At the height of the Cold War, the world holds its breath when a Soviet submarine armed with nuclear missiles goes missing in the Pacific. On board the vessel, the battle-tested captain (Ed Harris) and a rogue KGB agent (David Duchovny) are waging a life-and-death game of cat and mouse. With enemy forces closing in and time running out, the captain fights to keep control with nuclear Armageddon hanging in the balance.
Loosely based on the true events of the K129 Submarine disaster, Phantom looks and feels like a very well made television production. What sets it apart from such productions is the casting and some rock solid performances from Ed Harris, David Duchovny and William Fitchner. Not quite reaching the heights of such submarine classics like Das Boot or Crimson Tide (both sit on my favourite’s shelf in my collection), Phantom does keep its pace throughout its 97 minute runtime. The only criticism I would say is the rather cliché finale which does spoil a rather good thriller.
Phantom is presented on a BD-50 with a 1080/24p MPEG-AVC codec that preserves its 2.35:1 original aspect ratio. Filmed with Red Epic lenses, Phantom has an overall digital look to it which makes it look more like a Television production rather than a feature film. There is virtually no grain throughout the feature and detail is razor sharp. It almost compares to raw ungraded footage in all honesty in some scenes. There was digital noise observed in the darker scenes (and especially the underwater shots) but this was minimal and didn’t distract from the overall picture. Colour reproduction seemed good but the overall colour palette is quite plain and tends to have a pale golden / yellow tint during the scenes set aboard the submarine, which takes up a majority of the film. Despite the flaws I detailed above, it’s worth noting that this is due to source material and not as a result of the disc transfer itself which by all accounts, is pretty solid in terms of picture quality.
Phantom is presented on Blu-ray with two audio tracks. English DTS-MA 5.1 and LPCM 2.0. whilst the 2.0 track is a fold down of the original 5.1 mix, the DTS-MA 5.1 track was selected for the review. Even though Phantom does have a low budget feel, the audio mix was impressive! There was a great atmosphere throughout the film and every discrete sound effect like the hull creaking under pressure and background steam valves could be heard in detail. There was a great use of the surround speakers as well. LFE was nicely applied when required. One particular scene that stood out was the crush depth scene. It doesn’t quite match what the bigger budget films like Crimson Tide and Das Boot reach but it certainly does impress. The disc does not come with any subtitles.
Facing the Apocalypse (13m07s): A brief look at the making of Phantom that features behinds the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew. Presented in High Definition
The Real Phantom (6m03s): A brief look at the true life story that inspired Phantom. Presented in High Definition
Jeff Rona – Scoring Phantom (2m57s): A very short look at composer Jeff Rona on set getting inspiration and on stage scoring Phantom. Presented in High Definition
An Ocean Away (2m48s): The music video that accompanies the feature film. Presented in High Definition
Trailer (1m26s): The film’s theatrical trailer. Presented in High Definition
Overall, Phantom is a well made film, despite the finale. Tense and gripping, It features some great performances from the lead cast and doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. Fans of war films should find this entertaining. Whilst the PQ is a bit of a mixed bag (mainly due to source material), the audio mix is the highlight of the disc and certainly packs a punch. The small selection of bonus features rounds the disc off nicely but a bit more info on the true life story would have been nice.