Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Das Boot (1981)

Fear the ping.

German U-boats went from predator to prey as the Battle of the Atlantic continued during the Second World War. Allied convoys began to better protected by naval support.

The jobs of German submarine captains such as Henrich Lehmann-Willenbock (Jurgen Prochnow) became that much more challenging - and dangerous. Lehman-Willenbock is an experienced skipper. He's good too, awarded the Iron Cross as we see when the film starts and his crew whoops it up one final night before returning to duty.

Das Boot - The Director's Cut is the submarine film all others must be compared against. Originally shot as a television miniseries, it was released to theatres in 1981. Director Wolfgang Petersen later recut his war drama with a running time of more than three hours.

The crew on this sub spends most of its time doing everything but hunting down Allied targets. They scan the ocean with their binoculars when the sub surfaces. They're foiled by poor weather. They wait for orders.

Physical conditions are tight with little room to move. There's plenty of stress too when their sub is targeted with depth charges. To avoid damage, the sub dives deep with the danger of the vessel imploding due to increased pressure. One of Das Boot's most intense moments come when the crew can hear an Allied destroyer's sonar system searching for them to drop its depth charges.

Lehman-Willenbock seems cynical about the German war leadership. He's frustrated with how the subs are deployed. Some of his crew are close to cracking because of the strain of serving or problems with their girls far away.

My copy, unfortunately, was dubbed. Look for a version with subtitles.

Das Boot is a very good film about the war experience beneath the seas. Its ending is powerful too. Put it alongside Saving Private Ryan
and The Great Escape
as essential Second World War films to watch.

RATING: 9/10

FUN FACTS: Das Boot was nominated for six Academy Awards including best director, sound and editing.

Petersen made the move to Hollywood after this film. His credits included Outbreak and
The NeverEnding Story .

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