The son of refugees from East Germany, Christian Petzold was born in Hilden, near Düsseldorf, in 1960. Having graduated in German literature and Theatre Studies at the Freie Universität in Berlin, he trained at the German Film and Television Academy (1988-94), under tutors Harun Farocki and Hartmut Bitomsky, who were renowned for their achievements in the cine-essay and analytical documentary. Already a passionate cineaste with an abiding interest in screen history, Petzold emerged as a key member of the Berlin School, which has specialised in capturing the shifting social, political, economic and cultural mood of Germany since reunification in 1990.

Since first making an impression with the terrorist thriller, The State I Am In (2000), Petzold has done his best work in conjunction with muse Nina Hoss, who has proved herself to be one of Europe's finest actresses with her superbly modulated performances in Something to Remind Me (2002), Wolfsburg (2003), Yella (2007), Jerichow (2009), Barbara (2012) and Phoenix (2014). However, Petzold has opted not to collaborate with Hoss on Transit, an audaciously atemporal adaptation of a 1942 novel by the German Jewish refugee, Anna Seghers, which draws comparisons between the political conditions across the continent that once facilitated the Holocaust and are currently exacerbating the migrant crisis. 

Having escaped from a German concentration camp, Georg (Franz Rogowski) fetches up in Paris, where a journalist friend, Paul (Sebastian Hülk), urges him to leave before the Fascists controlling the city put it into lockdown. He asks Georg to deliver two letters to a celebrated Communist author named Weidel, who is staying in a nearby hotel. When Georg reached the Ryad, however, he learns from the chambermaid (Emilie de Preissac) that Weidel has committed suicide by slashing his wrists in the bathroom. She had asked a cop friend to dispose of the body in an unmarked grave and suggests that Georg takes the manuscript left on the desk so that she has no traces remaining of Weidel's inconvenient existence. 

Impulsively, Georg takes the typed pages and is wandering back to his neighbourhood when he sees Paul being rounded up by some uniformed men. He manages to escape when asked to show his papers and returns to his hideout, where he is given instructions to take the badly wounded Heinz by train to Marseilles. As they travel in a sealed compartment, Georg reads Weidel's manuscript, as well as the letters that his friend had entrusted to him. A narrator (Matthias Brandt) describes this action as we learn that the first was from the Mexican consul offering Weidel safe passage out of Europe, while the other was from his estranged wife, Marie, who implored him to meet her in Marseilles, as they desperately needed to talk. 

On discovering that Heinz has died, Georg leaves the train and wanders into the city. He is surprised when a woman mistakes him for someone else and taps him on the shoulder, but is very much taken by her elegance, as she walks away. Seeking out the Maghrebi neighbourhood, Goerg break the news of Heinz's death to his wife, Melissa (Maryam Zaree), and their young son, Driss (Lilien Batman) asks him to go in goal for a kick about in the courtyard. But Georg doesn't feel he can linger and checks into a hotel in the centre, where the woman at the desk informs him that he can only register if he has documentary proof that he is not going to stay for more than a few days. Despite feeling sure that she will betray him, he takes a room and determines to hand in Weidel's papers at the Mexican consulate in the hope that they offer him a reward. 

The next day, he sees the woman in black at the consulate, where he is frustrated by the fact that a conductor (Justus von Dohnányi) and an architect (Barbara Auer) insist on telling him their life stories while they wait to be called. He is mistaken for Weidel by the consul (Alex Brendemühl), who gives him transit papers to reach Mexico via Spain and the United States and he mentions that he had just been speaking to Marie before he arrived. Realising that the woman in black is Weidel's widow and that she has no idea he is dead, Georg decides to play along with the error and spends some of the money that the consul had given him on food (and we learn that the narrator runs the Mont Vertoux café where he eats).

He also buys a football for Driss and helps him repair his broken radio (as he was a technician before the Fascists took over). Melissa arrives home and is surprised to see him. She communicates with her son through sign language and she accepts that Georg is a decent man when he sings the childhood lullaby that had been playing on the radio when she had walked in. Having survived a raid on the hotel (and noticed the architect sharing his sense of shame on the landing, as they motionlessly watched a woman being dragged away), Georg takes Driss for a day out and leaves him with a chocolate sundae while he nips into the American embassy. In the foyer, he notices the conductor and the architect before he is called (as Weidel) to meet the consul (Trystan Pütter). He is reluctant to give a visa to a known Communist sympathiser, but Georg assures him that he is as tired of writing about the war as he once was about penning school essays about what he had done during the holidays. 

As he leaves, Georg sees that the conductor has collapsed and an ambulance pulls up as he crosses the street to collect Driss. Marie mistakes him for Weidel for a second time and turns away in confusion and disappointment. But Driss is also upset, as he has realised that Georg is planning to go away and pushes him over when he tries to console him. The boy refuses to answer the door when he visits the next day and then bars him from his room when he has an asthma attack that requires Georg to find a doctor. By chance, he tracks down Richard (Godehard Giese), who is Marie's lover and they get chatting about the problems of having to leave a loved one behind in order to reach safety. Richard also has transit papers for Mexico, where he is due to work in a hospital. But he can't bear the thought of leaving Marie behind and recognises that Georg is also feeling guilty about abandoning Driss. 

Aware that Weidel had planned to get Marie out of France, Georg feels responsible for her and comes to the apartment to see her. She is sorting clothes to sell and tells him how she had disembarked from a ship because she couldn't betray her husband. But he had failed to meet her in Marseille with the documents she needed and now feels desperate because Richard is going to give up his own place on a liner in order to smuggle her across the Pyrenees into Spain. When Richard comes home carrying rucksacks, Georg offers to secure a visa for Marie to accompany him and swears that he wants nothing in return for the favour. 

Convincing the American consul to give him papers for Marie, Georg tells him a story about a man waiting in Purgatory to get the pass he needs to enter Hell. After weeks and months of lingering, he discovers that he has been in Hell all along and the consul smiles quietly. Richard is sceptical about the authenticity of the paperwork and the café owner notices how Georg and Marie held hands at the table while waiting for him to return. She is relieved that Richard can finally leave, as he has been on her conscience. But, having seen him off at the dock, she returns to the apartment to inform Georg that she has no intention of leaving France, as she has to find her husband. He tries to tell her that Weidel is dead, but she doesn't believe him. At that moment, however, Richard drives up in a taxi, as he has been bumped off the ship by some more important passengers and Georg leaves the lovers to ponder their next step. 

Needing cheering up, Georg goes to see Driss, only to learn that he and Melissa had gone far away and that their apartment was now being occupied by around a dozen North Africans. As he walks, he is hailed by the architect, who is wearing a smart black dress. She invites him to dine with her, but insists she wants company rather than conversation. Nevertheless, they get chatting and she tells him about the bridges that had been built by her mentor. But, as he lights a cigarette while sitting on the city wall, Georg is appalled to find himself alone because the woman has jumped to her death. With the Fascists closing in on the South, she had grown tired of having to jump through hoops to obtain her exit papers and had taken what she felt to be the only way out. 

As the day of his departure approaches, Georg keeps to himself for fear of bumping into Richard and Marie. However, she finds him at Mont Vertoux and they embrace warmly (much to the discomfort of the other customers, who are feeling uneasy at the news that cities further South are now being cleansed by the Fascists). They go back to his hotel room and Georg is touched by how fragile Marie seems, as she sparks out on his bed. The next morning, he leaves her in the same seat that Driss had occupied when he goes to the American consulate to collect their papers and she is relieved when he returns and assures her that everything is in order. In the taxi to the docks, however, Marie confides how excited she is that she will soon be reunited with her husband, as the Mexican consul had told her that he would be on the ship. 

Realising that he cannot disillusion her or cope with her disappointment when she learns the truth, Georg pretends that he has forgotten something and jumps out of the cab. He rushes to find Richard and gives him his ticket and documents so that he can join Marie on the Montréal. Risking his contempt, he asks for money so that it seems as if he is a lowlife trafficker to assuage any suspicions about his true motives. Desperate to unburden himself, Georg tells his story to the owner of the Mont Ventoux and asks him to keep Weidel's manuscript safe. 

As they talk, a woman bustles past him and Georg thinks he sees Marie. When he rushes into the street, however, there is no sign of her. The next day, as the Fascists close in on Marseille, Georg goes to the shipping office to check that Marie sailed aboard the Montréal. However, he learns that the ship hit a mine and sank with no survivors. But he is so sure that he saw Marie in the café that he waits at his usual table on the off chance that she will return, even as the troops begin rounding up suspects on the street outside. He looks up, as the bell over the door tinkles, and the film abruptly cuts to black without revealing who has entered. 

As the Talking Heads classic `Road to Nowhere' plays over the credits, Petzold leaves viewers in no doubt that he equates the Fascist attitudes that brought Europe to its knees eight decades ago with the recent rise in support for neo-Nazi groups around the world. Hence the decision to invert Jean-Luc Godard's gambit of using contemporary Paris for his futuristic noir, Alphaville (1965). There may be no mobile phones or laptops on view, but the backdrop for the action is very much the modern day to reinforce the script's contention that the migrants seeking to make a fresh start on the continent are being scapegoated in much the same way that the Jews were in the 1930s and 40s. 

Both KD Gruber's production design and Katharina Ost's costumes teasingly evoke the Nazi Occupation era and the present day, while Hans Fromm's CinemaScope photography captures the atmosphere of the different quarters of Marseille through which Georg wanders while trying to plan his future. Yet he never seems to belong anywhere, as Petzold drives home the enduring tendency of big cities to ghettoise their newcomers. Some might find the insistence on comparing the time zones contrived, especially as Petzold embraces the more melodramatic aspects of Seghers's novel and counterpoints the action with an unreliable voiceover. But the bold parallels will leave a deep impression with those who buy into a conceit that sometimes feels as though Michael Curtiz's Casablanca (1942) has been crossed with Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger (1975) and Petzold's own Phoenix.

Conveying the fugitive's sense of being trapped by both his circumstances and his conscience. Franz Rogowski makes a compellingly enigmatic  protagonist. His friendship with Lilien Batman's Driss feels more authentic than his guilty passion for Paula Beer's Marie, who keeps mistaking Georg for her husband and yet who never comments on any similarity between them once they become better acquainted. Her relationship with Godehard Giese's Richard also raises its share of questions, while we never learn enough about Weidel to make any informed judgements about his status as a writer or his integrity as a man. We don't even get a full understanding of what drove him to suicide. But such unanswered quandaries add to the intrigue of a thriller that's more interested in conveying the characters' sense of limbo rather than in telling their stories.

What is it about Manchester City goalkeepers and their necks? Admittedly, there was nothing remarkable about those belonging to Frank Swift, Harry Dowd or Joe Corrigan. But Bert Trautmann famously broke his during the 1956 FA Cup Final, while current custodian Ederson, has his covered in a tattoo of a rose and a skull. The chances of anyone making a biopic of the Brazilian are remarkably slim. But Marcus H. Rosenmüller looks back on the remarkable life and career of the Bremen-born shot-stopper in The Keeper, which arrives on disc a few months after City had reached the final for only the fifth time in the 63 years since Trautmann wrote himself into Wembley folklore. 

Captured during a woodland ambush in 1945, Bert Trautmann (David Kross) is sent to POW Camp 50 in Lancashire, where he quickly incurs the wrath of Sergeant Smythe (Harry Melling), who is aware that the Luftwaffe paratrooper had been decorated for his actions on the Eastern Front. Steering clear of the unrepentant Nazis in his barrack like Becker (Lukas Turtur), Trautmann is given a latrine detail. But he catches the eye of Margaret Friar (Freya Mavor) when she sees him saving penalties in the courtyard while delivering groceries with her father, Jack (John Henshaw). 

He is the coach St Helens Town FC, an amateur football team whose own goalie, Alf Myers (Mikey Collins), would rather be playing trumpet in the band at the local hop. So, when Friar interrupts the dance to tell skipper Bill Twist (Michael Socha) and the rest of the team to go home early and get a decent kip before the big game, Myers refuses to leave and Margaret is mortified that her father has shown her up in front of her best friend, Betsy (Chloe Harris). With the war now over and Trautmann being on a re-education course, Friar uses his influence with Smythe's superiors to borrow him for the afternoon. 

Naturally, Twist and his teammates have reservations about playing alongside someone who was so recently their enemy. Indeed, Myers storms off and drags Betsy out of the crowd in his disgust. But Trautmann goes between the sticks and plays a blinder in a 3-0 victory that not only pleases club backer Roberts (Dave Johns), but also wins Friar a bet for some cheap sheep with farmer Clive Thornton (Angus Barnett). 

The decision to offer Trautmann a job in the shop so he can play regularly doesn't go down well with Margaret, mother Clarice (Dervla Kirwan) or grandma Sarah (Barbara Young). However, Friar holds his nerve and Trautmann begins doing odd jobs, while the whole of St Helens gossips about the German in their midst. When he tries to chat to her younger sister, Barbara (Olivia-Rose Minnis), Margaret tells Trautmann that he will never be accepted because the Nazis killed her friends and robbed her of her youth. But he insists he had no choice in serving his country and would have much rather gone dancing with her than be shot at on battlefields. 

Honing his skills by kicking a ball against the storeroom wall, Trautmann also endears himself to Barbara by making her some stilts. He also gets a smile out of Margaret when he recaptures her escaped canary while her father is chasing after the live sheep that Thornton had cynically delivered after losing his bet. But Margaret continues to date Twist, who only tolerates Trautmann because the team has started winning. 

Back at the camp, Smythe shows the prisoners a film about Bergen-Belsen and Trautmann has a flashback to an incident in the Ukraine when he had prevented Colonel Bledsop (Ian T. Dickinson) from shooting the small Jewish boy (Dennis Alizadze) who had protested about his football being confiscated. The scenes of bodies being removed from the concentration camp prove too much for Richard Holthaus (David Schütter), who is in drag because he had been rehearsing for a show when Smythe organised his screening. Becker accuses him of being a traitor to the cause and a fight breaks out. When Holthaus is found hanging a few days later, Trautmann blames Stewart, but he suggests he looks into the crimes his friend had committed while in uniform.

Trautmann is still in reflective mood when Margaret offers him a glass of lemonade and asks why boys obsess about football. He compares the thrill of the moment to the sensation she feels when she dances and goes into a balletic routine after catching the ball during the next home game and Margaret smiles on the terraces, while Twist realises that she is developing feelings for his teammate. However, he continues to line up alongside him after the camp is closed and Trautmann moves into Barbara's room before the key relegation clash against Burscough. As St Helens go 0-1 down, Friar notices Manchester City manager Jock Thompson (Garry Lewis) in the crowd and wonders why he's slumming it at a non-league game.

He has come to offer Trautmann a trial to replace the retiring Frank Swift and Friar is sceptical that he has what it takes. But he joins in giving his goalie a grand send-off, as he is due to return to Germany the following day. During the party, however, Twist spots Trautmann and Margaret dancing cheek to cheek and drags his rival on to the pitch in the middle of a nocturnal downpour. He suggests a penalty competition to decide to gets to date her, but Trautmann lets the shot in before striding off warning Twist that Margaret will never be his girl. Realising that something is going on, Friar offers Trautmann a nightcap and points out that Margaret would become a pariah if she had anything to do with an erstwhile enemy, as the war has left scars that will take years to heal. But she has made up her mind and Trautmann finds  her waiting in his room and they kiss. 

They are married by October 1949, when Trautmann is presented to the press by Thompson and club dignitary, Tilson (Julian Sands). The subject of Trautmann's war record comes up and Margaret is stunned to learn that he had volunteered and earned an Iron Cross. While she demands the truth, Rabbi Altmann (Butz Ulrich Buse) comes to Maine Road to express the misgivings of the local Jewish community. The fans also give their new keeper a hostile welcome when he turns out against Arsenal. Such is the furore that Thompson and Tilson are barracked at a public meeting attended by Altmann. However, the rabbi is impressed when Margaret insists that her husband is trying to put the past behind him. She admits the wartime atrocities should never be forgotten, but pleads with the supporters to give Trautmann a chance. 

As Thompson sticks to his guns, Trautmann begins winning hearts and minds with his performances. But his cause is helped by Altmann writing an open letter, in which he avers that each person should be judged on their own merits and that he would be guilty of the prejudice he despises if he refused to accept Trautmann's word about his war record. As a result, he keeps his place and becomes a fan favourite as City are promoted from Division Two in 1950-51. However, the newsreel montage that takes us on five years omits to mention this or the 1955 FA Cup Final defeat to Newcastle United. But we do see Trautmann become a father and go on a camping trip with Margaret and their son, John (Tobias Masterson), before the 1956 Final against Birmingham City. 

While watching his wife use the caravan window to give a glove puppet show, Trautmann has a flashback when he sees a boy run into the dunes to collect his ball. But nothing can spoil the idyllic moment and he goes to Wembley in fine fettle. Indeed, he plays a part in the goal that puts City 3-1 up with a long punt downfield. However, with 17 minutes remaining, Trautmann's head collided with forward Peter Murphy's knee and he required lengthy treatment before insisting on playing on. Despite feeling groggy and collapsing after making three further saves, he stayed on the pitch and went up the steps to collect his medal. 

A cutaway set three days later shows the doctor explaining to Margaret how her husband had been lucky to survive the breaking of a bone in his neck. Friar brings the papers to Trautmann's hospital room and he joins John in playing with the Cup Final ball. This prompts another flashback to the Ukraine, only this time Bledsop shoots the boy dead and the traumatised Trautmann took the wooden charm from around his neck to remember him. He sees the child again in his mind's eye while phoning home from the hospital and hearing John being run over by a car while running after his ball after buying an ice cream. 

Ensuing scenes show the couple struggling to come to terms with their loss, as Margaret blames Trautmann for giving John permission to get an ice cream. He visits his grave and is surprised to meet Smythe, whose wife and daughter had been buried nearby after being killed in an air raid on Manchester. They fight when Smythe urges Trautmann not to quit football, as he has a duty to give back to those who had accepted him after losing loved ones. As he leaves, Smythe returns the wooden charm and Trautmann clutches it in his hand. He tells Margaret about the Ukrainian boy while they are walking in the dunes and she refuses to allow him to think that she lost her son because of his past failings. 

With `Abide With Me' playing on the soundtrack, we see Trautmann resume his career against Wolverhampton Wanderers in December 1956 and a caption reveals that he went on to play for the club 564 times before retiring in 1964. He also became the first foreign player to be voted Footballer of the Year. Following his last match, the fans dismantled the goals so that no one would ever stand between his posts again. He was awarded the OBE and the West German Order of Merit for his efforts to improve Anglo-German relations and we see him extending the hand of friendship to Rabbi Altmann. Trautmann and Margaret are also shown dancing together, as captions inform us that they had two further sons before she died in 1980 and he followed in 2013. No mention is made, however, of the fact that they divorced in 1972 and that Trautmann had two more wives, as well as an estranged daughter, with whom he was only reconciled in 1990. 

While we're on the subject of blips and omissions, we have to address the fact that the screenplay by Rosenmüller, Nicholas J. Schofield, Robert Marciniak and Christian Lerch consistently plays fast and loose with the historical timeline. Trautmann didn't start playing in the Liverpool County Combination until August 1948 and his performances that season led to St Helens Town being promoted to the Second Division of the Lancashire Combination rather than having to stave off relegation. Indeed, the club won its first honour that year, the George Mahon Cup. 

The inaccuracies continue after Trautmann arrives at Maine Road, as he made his debut for Manchester City against Bolton Wanderers not Arsenal. Moreover, the club's socks at that time were navy with pale blue tops and not white, while Les McDowall had replaced Thompson as manager long before the 1956 Cup Final. Yet, there he is in the dugout (which Wembley didn't have) watching the teams being led out by a referee who clearly has two arms when a quick glance at the Pathé newsreel report on the game would have told the writers that Alf Bond was missing part of his right arm. Furthermore, he would never have allowed Birmingham keeper Gil Merrick to wear a black top, as the colour was reserved for international matches and would have clashed with the shirts of the officials. 

At one point, a commentator confidently predicts that Man City are going to win, when they were widely considered to be the underdogs. Later, while describing the scene after Trautmann scrambles back to his feet, another commentator refers to the `audience' giving him a warm reception. Tsk, tsk. The scribes might have redeemed themselves either by showing the crowd sing `For He's a Jolly Good Fellow' at full-time or having the Duke of Edinburgh comment on the injury when greeting Trautmann in the royal box. Instead, they try to be over-cute by having `Blue Moon' play over the beach holiday sequence. But, while this was a popular song at the time, it wasn't adopted by City fans until the 1980s. 

Notwithstanding the glitches, this is a thoroughly enjoyable account of Trautmann's unique experiences. The treatment of `good' and `bad' Germans is necessarily simplistic, as are the exhortations to forgive and forget. But Rosenmüller conveys something of the hostility that Trautmann had to endure, although this is somewhat distilled by the use of John Henshaw as comic relief. He also pushes his luck with the near-farcical tussle with Smythe in the picture perfect cemetery. But, while he overdoes the Ukrainian flashbacks, Rosenmüller avoids sentimentalising the romance with Margaret and the aftermath of the tragedy that nearly drove the pair apart, although he is somewhat helped in this regard by the lukewarm chemistry between David Kross and Freya Mavor. 

As so much time is devoted to the Camp 50 sequences (even though the time frame is rather concertina'd), the City segment feels a tad rushed. But this isn't really a football film and, in behind the pleas for tolerance, faint echoes of anti-Brexit disapproval can be heard in the Little Englander attitudes of the bigoted fans. It's all the more ironic, therefore, that Northern Ireland frequently stands in for postwar Lancashire. The production values are sound enough, but the sloppiness will spoil this for footie fanatics and it's hard to see Pep Guardiola showing it to the current squad, as they seek to bounce back from a shock away defeat at Carrow Road.

The career of Dane Thomas Vinterberg has drifted somewhat since his Dogme95 heyday with Festen (1998). He's been feted for such domestic sagas as The Hunt (2012) and The Commune (2016), but his overseas ventures have been less successful, with It's All About Love (2003), Dear Wendy (2005) and Far From the Madding Crowd (2015) having moments rather than being momentous. 

In 2010, Vinterberg directed a film about two brothers bumping along on the bottom of Danish society that was entitled Submarino. Now, he turns his attention to an actual submarine in Kursk: The Last Mission, which he inherited from compatriot Martin Zandvliet and which draws on A Time to Die, a 2002 book by ITN reporter Robert Moore, who crops up in a rather stilted cameos,  Scripted by Saving Private Ryan's Robert Rodat, this is a careful reconstruction of a tragedy that gripped the world back in 2000. But, because the story is so well known, it lacks the suspense of fictional variations on the theme like Roy Ward Baker's Morning Departure (1950) and Kathryn Bigelow's K-19: The Widowmaker (2002), . 

In August 2000, shortly after Vladimir Putin assumed power in Russia, cash flow problems within the navy are so severe that the crew of the Kursk have to sell their watches to help Pavel Sonin (Matthias Schweighöfer) pay for his Orthodox wedding to Darya (Katrine Greis-Rosenthal). The plan was hatched by Captain-Lieutenant Mikhail Averin (Matthias Schoenaerts), who is expecting a second child after son Misha (Artemiy Spiridonov) with his wife, Tanya (Léa Seydoux). It's clear from the the speech made by Anton Markov (August Diehl) and the tears shed by Oleg Lebedev (Magnus Millang) that there is a firm bond between crewmates, who join in a chorus of the Northern Fleet's anthem before counting the number of seconds that Pavel and Darya kiss.

As the Kursk sets sail the next morning, Misha watches wistfully from the school playground and the screen expands to widescreen to show how small the submarine looks in the vast Berents Sea. Supervising the exercise is 
Admiral Vyacheslav Grudzinsky (Peter Simonischek), who laments that much of the old Soviet fleet has been left to rust and he just hopes Russia has enough firepower to defend itself from whatever enemies it has in the post-Cold War world. Commodore David Russell (Colin Firth) is monitoring the war game for the Royal Navy and he confides to his colleagues that he had once been fishing and drinking with Grudzinsky and found him a tough nut. 

As the Kursk steams towards its launch position, Pavel informs Captain Shirokov (Martin Brambach) that one of the older missiles is heating up and suggests firing it early to get it off the sub. However, Shirokov is a stickler for doing things according to the book and denies the request. No sooner does he curse the skipper for his intransigence than the torpedo detonates and triggers a series of explosions that dumps the craft on the sea bed. With water pouring in, Mikhail tries to contact the weapons bay, but receives no reply. Anton informs him that he is going to stay at his post and hope to prevent a Chernobyl-like blast and asks his friend to tell his wife that he loves her. 

Grabbing his photo of Tanya and Misha, Mikhail seals Compartment Nine and tells his 22 surviving shipmates that they have to remain calm and professional if they are going to stay alive long enough to be rescued. Leo (Joel Basman) is terrified and Mikhail has to give him a reassuring pep talk, as Niko (Chris Pascal) and Sasha (Kristof Coenen) do their bit to fix the leak to prevent them from being submerged. While they toil, Russell and assistant  Bruce Hamil (John Hollingworth) detect the explosions and he seeks to speak to Grudzinsky to find out what is going on and ascertain if Britain can lend any assistance. 

Rumours also start spreading around Murmansk, but the authorities refuse to tell Tanya anything and Anton's mother, Oksana (Pernilla August), urges her to stay strong because everything possible will be done to rescue the crew. Having sent a submersible to investigate, however, Grudzinsky is convinced that nobody could have survived the calamity. Consequently, the rescue vessel remains in port and Tanya fears the worst. But Grudzinsky orders the fleet to cut power so they can pick up any knocking and there is much relief when the noise is detected and the recovery operation swings into action. Russell is frustrated by the Russian refusal to accept help, however, as there is too much top secret equipment aboard the Kursk for the Kremlin to risk NATO forces seeing it.

Aboard the submarine, Mikhail orders Oleg to prepare the oxygen pump, as the air supply is running low. Moreover, he has to use the emergency electricity generator after the power outs and plunges the compartment into darkness. As there are no cartridges for the pump, however, Mikhail and Sasha have to swim underwater to the storage lockers in Compartment Eight to find some and the latter is on the point of blacking out when they return. Oleg jokes about why they took so long to lighten the mood, as they now have 20 cartridges to keep them going. 

What they don't know, however, is that the rescue operation is not going well. Tanya and her friends lose patience with Captain Ivan Timoshenko (Miglen Mirtchev) when he spouts patriotic waffle during a briefing and Oksana chides her for forcing them to withdraw rather than face a barrage of criticism. In trying to dock with the Kursk, the submersible fails to create a watertight seal and cheers turn to jeers when the survivors realise that the craft is resurfacing. Mikhail orders them to stay alert, as they will be back. But the rescue ship skipper (Bjarne Henriksen) informs Grudzinsky that cutbacks prevented them from replacing worn seals, while the reserve battery packs were sold with the Mir, which is now taking tourists to see the Titanic.

After a second attempt fails, Grudzinsky contacts Russell about sending a British craft because he is tired of trying to do the impossible with the inadequate. But, as Tanya watches television, she sees Admiral Vladimir Petrenko (Max von Sydow) deflect questions at a press conference in averring that the Kursk's problems were caused by it striking a non-Russian vessel. She accusing him of lying when he comes to Murmansk and (with Misha watching on) Oksana is dragged from the room and forcibly sedated for daring to challenge the authority of a senior officer, who keeps insisting that the men knew the risks when they joined up. 

Grudzinsky is also dismayed by Moscow's refusal to allow British and Norwegian experts to attend the scene and he defies his superiors by accepting Russell's offer of help. Joining Graham Mann (Steven Waddington) aboard the Sea Eagle, Russell approaches the accident zone. However, he is ordered to keep his distance because Grudzinsky has been stripped of his command and Petrenko is now in charge. 

Meanwhile, tensions are mounting on the Kursk, as Mikhail has to fight with Maxim (Pit Bukowski) to prevent him making a reckless bid to swim through the escape hatch. However, he is also suffering from his own growing sense of despair and asks Oleg how he felt when he lost his father at sea when he was a small boy. He assures him that he retains memories and has always felt his father's presence and Mikhail thanks him for his encouraging words (as he had earlier been grateful for his bid to boost morale by telling a joke about a cold polar bear). 

Russell and Mann meet Petrenko, who seems baffled why they think they could do a better job than the Russian navy. But, when the Priz submersible's third attempt to dock fails - amidst arguments between its pilots (Lars Brygmann and Martin Greis-Rosenthal) over their own safety - the Brits are summoned. However, events overtake them. Determined to raise spirits, Oleg wakes everyone up and coaxes them into sharing their food supplies for a hearty breakfast. He even finds some vodka and jokes that he doesn't want to leave because things are so good down here. But, when Leo goes to replace the oxygen canister, he causes a fire that destroys the pump. Holding his breath underwater until the flames are doused, Mikhail sees Misha swimming towards him to clasp his hand. 

As the submariners sing a last chorus of their anthem, Mikhail expresses his pride at serving with them. On the surface, the British bell sends down divers who open the hatch to reveal the truth (and the screen reduces in size to reflect the moment that hope is finally lost). Russell is distraught because he knows Russian pride killed the survivors. Misha also blames Petrenko and shoots him a glare during a memorial service before refusing to shake his hand. Tanya reads the note that Mikhail had scribbled after speaking to Oleg and the lament sung by the choir recalls the joyous refrain from the opening wedding. As they walk away, the quartermaster commends Misha on his action and returns his father's watch as a mark of respect. 

It's impossible not to be moved by a tragedy that deprived 71 children of their fathers. While this is a respectful recreation of the key events aboard the Kursk and around its home base, however, one has to question the conviction of Luc Besson's EuropaCorp after it decided to remove the scenes discussing Putin's reluctance to break his vacation in Sochi to avoid being tainted by the fallout from the incident. According to the Hollywood Reporter, executives were concerned that they would be targeted for hacking if they upset the Russian president (as his father had been a submariner). But ducking the issue feels like an abnegation and draws much of the sting from the criticism of Petrenko and the naval brass, especially as Putin actually fronted the press conference from which Oksana is ejected. 

Opening with a homage to Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1977) and running with the necessary licence taken by Rodat's script, Vinterberg returns to the theme of a small community's mettle being tested by crisis to tell his tale capably, but without ever approaching the immediacy and suspense of Alex Parkinson's subterranean rescue documentary, Last Breath (2019). He benefits considerably from the expertise of production designer Thierry Flamand, cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle and composer Alexandre Desplat, while the performances are solid enough. But the hodge-podge of pan-European accents proves as distracting as the switches between aspect ratios. 

Colin Firth follows up a fine turn as Donald Crowhurst in James Marsh's The Mercy (2017) with another persuasive display of nautical nous, while Matthias Schoenaerts also tempers his bristling masculinity with allusions to a softer side. But it's hard not to compare his grand aquatic set-piece with Shelley Winters's heroic swim in Ronald Neame's pioneering disaster movie, The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Mention should also be made of the 89 year-old Max von Sydow, who is still capable of producing genuinely hissable villainy. Indeed, the contrast between the looks he gives Firth across the Peter the Great's table and young Artemiy Spiridonov across the church ranks among this worthy, but stolid feature's few memorable moments.