Phantom: The Submarine


"Phantom is a decent action movie, but it just doesn't compare to its closest American counterpart."

- Equinox21

Phantom: The Submarine(1999)

AKA: Phantom the Submarine

Director: Min Byeong-Cheon

Producer: Cha Seung-Jae

Cast: Choi Min-Su, Jeong Wu-Seong, Yun Ju-Sang, Son Byeong-Ho, Go Dong-Up, Han Ban-Do, Park Gil-Su, Seol Gyeong-Gu, Jeong Eun-Pyo

Running Time: 103 min.

Plot: Naval officer Chan-Suk Lee shoots his superior office on board the Janbogo submarine during a drill exercise. He is executed by a firing squad, but wakes up to find himself still alive in another gigantic submarine, the Phantom, which is a Sierra-class nuclear sub sent from Russia to substitute a loan. The Korean government uses it as a countermeasure to Japan's development of nuclear subs, being a top secret weapon, all the crew on board have no record of existence. Commander 202 seizes the control of the ship and proceeds with a surprise attack on the Japanese...

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EQUINOX21'S REVIEW: Well, Crimson Tide this ain't. Phantom: The Submarine and Crimson Tide have very similar plots, with obvious major differences between them. They both take place on nuclear submarines where the Captain attempts to launch nuclear missiles. In Crimson Tide there's good motivation for the attempted missile launch, unfortunately this is really where Phantom falls flat.

The crew of the Phantom is made up of submariners who have all been selected by a select few in the South Korean government and military who know the existence of the sub. They've all had their histories erased, their names taken away (and are only known by their numbers), and declared dead to their family, friends and the rest of the world. The story focuses on Number 431 (Jung Woo-sung [Musa]), a weapons officer who shoots his Captain and is sent in front of a firing squad. When he wakes up after his sentence is carried out, he finds himself at a top-secret base with no choice but to take his place on the Phantom.

Number 431 soon finds himself entangled in a plot by the Executive Officer, Commander 202 (Choi Min-soo), to assassinate the Captain, 000, and assume command so he can launch the sub's nuclear missiles at Japan. It all comes down to Number 431 to stop him. Here's where I became less interested in the drama of movie, because seemingly the only motivation now-Captain 202 has is that either he wants revenge on Japan for their treatment of Korea in the past or he's completely insane, he shows signs of both.

Dramatic? Sure, a bit. However, it just wasn't enough to really draw me in. There was no real motivation for Commander 202 to be doing what he did. Nor was there real obvious motivation for Number 431 to try and stop him, unless he is just a really good guy who only wants to stop millions of Japanese from turning into radioactive dust, however this is never really made very clear. There were some exciting scenes of underwater submarine battles between the Phantom and some Japanese subs. However, it's all been seen before, and was really more dramatic in Crimson Tide (possibly due to it's exciting Hans Zimmer score). Where Crimson Tide ends in a typical Hollywood movie fashion, Phantom ends in a very typical Korean movie way.

The special effects are where the movie comes through really well. The CG effects in Phantom are among the best I've seen in a Korean movie. All the underwater battle scenes were really, really well done. The sets were also pretty spectacular for such a low budget Korean film.

Phantom is a decent action movie, but it just doesn't compare to its closest American counterpart. Let's face it; it's pretty tough to outdo Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington!