Tight, cramped and claustrophobic is not the ideal way to spend your working hours, but working on a submarine means that is how you have to work. Bringing that kind of atmosphere to the screen is always a tricky concept as you need to get the audience to feel the same as the crew does.
Phantom takes place almost entirely on a submarine while it is miles below the surface of the ocean, and it could not have done a better job of making me feel boxed in. Apparently inspired by actual events, Phantom sees Demi (Harris) a submarine commander called into a classified mission that only a few on board know the reasons behind including a rogue KGB group fronted by Bruni (Duchovny). So when Demi discovers he was chosen because the top brass thought he would fail, he has to set about fighting back with the aid of his small, but loyal colleagues against what seems an impossible mission.
The film is a constant guessing game as to what will happen next, and who is going to triumph over the others. The storyline is tight and rather unforgiving against certain people; it pitches very early on which group you should be rooting for, but as time grows things change that give you more cause for concern. So while it may be a thriller, it was more the claustrophobic side of the film that truly got to me. It is shot in such small areas, and close up to everyone’s faces that it actually feels like you are in there with them struggling for survival. In many ways, it hits on the same fears as The Abyss did and it works just as well.
Harris and Fitchner play well off each other to keep the film moving, but it’s Duchovny that shows what he is really made of here. His constant shady-ness brings out the fear and I was never sure what he could be capable of, it’s a shame David doesn’t play more characters like this as he can easily do it.
Phantom won’t be for everyone due to its subject matter, but there is an incredibly intense story here and it’s helped along by some great leading performances. The claustrophobic atmosphere only adds more to making this a fantastic suspenseful thriller.
EXTRAS ★★ Facing The Apocalypse: Making Phantom (13:02), The Real Phantom (6:03), Jeff Rona: Scoring Phantom (2:57), An Ocean Away music video (2:48), and the theatrical trailer (01:26).