Reviewed March 25th, 2001 by Todd Terwilliger
Das Boot is the submarine movie. Period. No other film so accurately captures life aboard the infamous German U-Boat. If you've seen U-571, watch Das Boot. If you haven't seen U-571, watch Das Boot.
Originally created for German television, Wolfgang Peterson (The Perfect Storm, Air Force One), follows the crew of one U-Boat as it leaves port to harass Allied convoys across the Atlantic. We see through the ship through the eyes of Lieutenant Werner, a war correspondent sent to write articles for the homeland.
The captain (Jurgen Prochnow), although fairly young, is a veteran, disillusioned and cynical. He quickly banishes any romantic illusions about their purpose and pushes Werner to tell it like it is so that the homeland will know the truth.
The truth is that life aboard the U-Boat is hard. The confines of the boat are extremely claustrophobic, lacking in any privacy or personal space. When the sub must dive, the crewmen all run to the head to weigh the nose downward. They share their space with food supplies, which they stack anywhere and everywhere. When the depth charges rain down, all they can do is sit silently and hope for the best.
The sub plays a dangerous game of hide and seek with the allied convoys. It must surface to torpedo, making it vulnerable to feared Destroyers. And then dive quickly, hopefully escaping without detection. When detected, the sub is powerless to do anything but play mouse to the Destroyer's cat.
Das Boot sounds wonderful. Mastered in Dolby Digital 5.1, the ambient sounds of the submarine envelope the sound stage. The split surrounds are used to great effect, especially during the diving sequences. In one scene, the U-Boat hears two ships breaking apart above. The effect is a very eerie sensation.
Although an English dubbed track is available, the German language track is necessary to fully appreciate the fine acting. The subtitles are worth the additional value absent in the English dub.
The video is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Overall, the quality of the transfer is good. However, there is some pixelation during some of the scenes, as well as occasional dirt. None of this, however, is distracting to the action. While imperfect, the video is certainly a grade over solid.
There are two extras both of which are worth using. The first is a director's commentary by director Peterson. Well spoken, he adds a great amount of detail to the technical process necessary to create the film. He has much to say and most of it is very interesting. The second extra is a Making Of/Behind The Scenes. This is also rather neat, if only because it shows the European film-making process rather than the more familiar Hollywood variety.
I cannot stress enough the excellence of Das Boot. Although German, the film does not embrace a sense of romanticism nor does it soften the edges. It is not a film about Germans or Nazis as much as it is a film about submariners. It will leave you with a fine appreciation for their travails. It is not, however, a pro-war film and its message, because it is not pushed or glorified, makes it all the more powerful.
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