Phantom is a decent submarine movie that has some good moments, but is saddled with quite a few problems also.
Phantom follows a Russian sub commander, Demi (Ed Harris) and his crew as they take an old sub out to sea one more time before it is decommisioned and sold to the Chinese. The film is inspired by actual events. Aboard the ship are some sketchy gentlemen, led by Bruni (David Duchovny) who have strapped an experimental (secret) piece of equipment to the top front of the ship. As the sub sets sail, Bruni takes control and orders the captain around. Demi, not looking for conflict before he retires, follows through with the orders. The main driver of the story is one where certain people are looking to start a world war with the nuclear missile that is onboard the sub.
I have always liked Ed Harris, I think he is a great reliable actor that makes any movie better. Phantom would have been a much lesser movie without Harris. He brings a lot to the role and he is able to get us the audience to care for his character. Many Kudos to Harris for his performance in Phantom. Duchovny on the other hand was given a thankless role and not given much to do. His character was flat and the motivation for what his character does comes only in the last few minutes of the film. Duchovny is left being able to emote only two things: Menacing and mysterious. He does what he can, but the script fails him.
The script is written by the writer/director Todd Robinson. It is an OK script and does generate some good tension in the mid-section of the film. The script moves a bit too fast in the beginning and left me a little confused by what was happening. Also, the characters in the film are thrown at the audience quite quickly and we are not given time to bond with them nor get to know them. The script barrels along without giving the audience a chance to catch up and that is the big problem with the film.
The underwater sub battle scenes are a bit chaotic and not very exciting, I expected more. The parts that did work were the cramped scenes inside the sub. The film really shows how cramped and claustrophobic being on a sub is.
I had not heard of Phantom before and only picked it up at the library because I saw that Ed Harris and David Duchovny were starring in it. I can understand why the film sank at the box office (was that just a pun?). This film would have been a decent direct-to-video release, but it just is not good enough for the big screen.