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Das Boot
West Germany
Drama, Thriller, Action, Adventure, History, War
IMDB rating:
Wolfgang Petersen
Jürgen Prochnow as Capt.-Lt. Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock - Der Alte
Herbert Grönemeyer as Lt. Werner - Correspondent
Klaus Wennemann as Chief Engineer Fritz Grade - Der Leitende-Der LI
Hubertus Bengsch as 1st Lieutenant - Number One-1WO
Martin Semmelrogge as 2nd Lieutenant - 2WO
Bernd Tauber as Kriechbaum - Chief Quartermaster-Navigator
Erwin Leder as Johann
Martin May as Ullman
Heinz Hoenig as Hinrich (as Heinz Hönig)
Uwe Ochsenknecht as Chief Bosun
Jan Fedder as Pilgrim
Ralf Richter as Frenssen
Joachim Bernhard as Preacher
Storyline: It is 1942 and the German submarine fleet is heavily engaged in the so-called "Battle of the Atlantic" to harass and destroy British shipping. With better escorts of the destroyer class, however, German U-boats have begun to take heavy losses. "Das Boot" is the story of the crew of one such U-Boat, with the film examining how these submariners maintained their professionalism as soldiers and attempted to accomplish impossible missions, all the while attempting to understand and obey the ideology of the government under which they served.
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Incredibly Intense WWII Submarine Action Drama
In 1941, Britain and Germany are battling for control of crucial Atlantic supply routes. German submarine U-96 leaves the French port of La Rochelle; its mission, to inflict as much damage as possible on cargo-ship convoys.

This is a unique movie and for my money one of the best war pictures ever made. Whilst maintaining a very high level of drama and suspense for a long film, it also seems so real and credible, and the filmmakers went to great lengths to convey this authenticity. It is based on an autobiographical novel by Lothar-Günther Buchheim who was a real-life war correspondent. The stunning submarine set by Rolf Zehetbauer was built with incredible attention to period detail and as an enclosed space, restricting the camera-work but adding tremendously to the crucial atmosphere of confinement. The great cast gave everything to the picture (for example, they were not allowed out in the sun during the shooting) and their transformation as it progresses into haggard, bearded, weary ghosts is startling and unsettling. Prochnow is stunning as the unnamed Captain; a man who has the respect of his crew yet is essentially alone, but the entire ensemble are brilliant - I especially like Wennemann (the chief engineer), Tauber (the navigator) and Hoenig (the radio-operator) all of whom give quiet, thoughtful, understated performances, very atypical in an epic movie filled with action. The eerily effective use of sound adds to the movie's tension, and there is brilliant claustrophobic camera-work by Jost Vacano. The depiction of the crew's struggles - alternating intolerable boredom with sheer terror when the alarm is raised, evading depth charges and destroyers, running dangerously deep to avoid detection, repairing the ship (literally everything breaks at some point), following suicidal orders - is the heart of the film. U-Boat crews had a one in four chance of surviving, and the movie's heartbreaking conclusion is deeply profound and moving, regardless of your views on World War II. This is a film about people, not politics, which is why it's such a great war movie. Shot as both a 145-minute feature released first, and as a six-hour TV miniseries screened later; this review is of an even better 200-minute version recut by Petersen and re-released in 1996.
Immersive and unforgettable masterpiece
I haven't read the novel, so I base this upon the Director's Cut, which is the only release I have watched. Yes, it's three hours and fifteen minutes long. And let me tell you, it is completely worth it. The development of character and build-up of atmosphere and mood are among the best ever seen in this medium. You care about the entire crew, and they have varied personalities and every last one of them is credible. Including a reporter lets them occasionally explain something the audience needs to understand without it standing out, and apart from that, he is also someone you feel for. There are no good or bad guys in this, there are only *people*. Human beings. And you experience the terror that actual submarine crews did, as well as the filth and the claustrophobia. All without any of it getting excessive. This is intense and extremely well-paced. It manages to not overwhelm the audience to the point of over-stimulation. You don't merely witness how little room they have to move around, how two men cannot pass each other at certain parts lest they both squeeze up against the wall and move sideways, you *experience* it. If you are not OK with closed spaces, you may not want to take your chances with a viewing of this. It's exceptionally well-shot, from start to finish. The authenticity is astonishing. I understand that this really happened, and is a combination of two true stories. Exposition is delivered smoothly, and this is well-told all the way. There is occasional humor, to lighten the tension slightly. I don't want to risk giving too much plot away, so this is all I will reveal: This follows a group of young men, inexperienced rookies, on their first mission on a sub, under a veteran captain. This is well-made all the way, and it was the perfect decision to do it almost completely in sequence. The sound design is amazing, in a class of its own. Every acting performance is flawless, and it's no wonder that Prochnow got several American roles after this came out. The DVD offers a dub in English(by the same cast, I understand), though I chose to hear the original German. It also contains a trailer, a six minute featurette of sorts, about the DC edition, and a subtitled, highly informational and also fun commentary track with Wolfgang, Jürgen and Ortwin Freyermuth who produced this version of the film. This has relatively infrequent strong language and is disturbing, sometimes violent and bloody, and most definitely not for the faint of heart. I recommend this to anyone who likes anti-war movies. Unquestionably Petersen's greatest achievement. 10/10
Where great story telling meets realism!
My two uncles where submariners in the 2nd WW. Both survived, and I had the opportunity to meet the one that was a commander. Although he would not talk much about his experiences, I was able to extract from him his opinion of the TV Mini-Series when it came out. With the exception of the noise levels that crew members made in the movie (for drama purposes) he told me that it was a very faithful depiction of the life and hardships a submariner lived on a U-Boot.

I personally have always admired the film because it depicts war without glorifying any of the participants. You are not guided by the director or the plot to identify with any particular character - you can actually relate to many of them, and therefor immerse yourself in the claustrophobic experience they live.

Its an excellent piece of film making that combines drama and action into a very powerful anti-war message. Although I personally prefer the original mini-series, the directors cut with its remastered sound is also a great experience.
How Can?
This is quite possibly the greatest depiction of any period piece. You are immediately taken into the lives of those young men serving on this submarine and you live their lives, literally.

How can anyone who gave 'Titanic' a big score possibly rate that abhorrence higher than this masterpiece?

Yes, the ending is truly poignant. Yes, the recreation of a World War II submarine is amazing. Watch the Director's Cut with surround sound and you will really believe you are on that sub.

Peter Jackson might have taken us slightly into Middle Earth, but Wolfgang Petersen totally immerses us into submarine warfare of the past.

As has already been said, this film is a perfect 10.
An essay in suspense
Adapted from a mini-series, Das Boot ranks not just as one of the best war films, but one of the best suspense films of all time.

Apart from some scene-setting at the start, Director Wolfgang Peterson centres all the action on the U-boat itself. The crew are cut off, with only the pings of sonar and the creaks from the hull to connect them to the outside world. They are trapped in a cramped, claustrophobic tube, a million miles from the cavernous interiors normally portrayed in submarine films. This is a submarine where people sleep 2 to a cot; where supplies litter the interior; where water sluices across the floor; where the sweat and fear is palpable.

The crew are portrayed as professionals doing a job. These are not Nazi zealots, but cynical and hardened to their job. In one telling scene, the U-boat retreats from a recently torpedoed convoy, dooming its crew to certain death. Jurgen Prochnow's restrained performance shows that he has no choice, and that this choice is not a happy one. The only Nazi zealot amongst the crew (an SS intelligence officer and ex-Hitler Youth leader) is soon subdued and eventually proves his worth. (The other officers tease him by singing along to Allied crowd-pleasers like "A long way to Tipperary").

The photography is superb, with a steadicam ranging up and down the sub in a way that conveys just how small and cramped it is.

There are some standout set-pieces, where the submarine is under depth-charge attack from British destroyers. These rank as some of the most suspenseful sequences every committed to film - expertly acted, edited, and with breath-taking sound design. You will share in the crew's horror as the U-boat plummets to the bottom, with rivets popping and engines dead.

The film spends a remarkable amount of time on character development. The clean-cut crew soon become haggard and tense; one key character snaps and derelicts his duty, risking court-martial; there is a sense of what each crew member has lost in the war. There is a jarring sequence where the U-boat sneaks into a neutral port to resupply from a German merchant vessel, and these gaunt and dirty ghosts are invited to a feast; their contempt for the self-satisfied merchant officers is palpable.

There are few weaknesses. The visual effects don't match up to the rest of the production and are occasionally distracting. The ending is abrupt and rather shocking.

Not just a must-see, but a film that bears repeated viewings.
Plain excellence and one anti-war movie worth watching
The claustrophobic life of submarine soldiers relived - and in a way, portraying the tension and misery of every soldier and everyone in such tight a situation.

Having read the novel now for the second time, I'm still overawed by the suspense and fear of the situation U-boat sailors found themselves in. The novel is a very interesting read and in my opinion very well reflects the boredom and sudden tension those pitiful sailors found themselves in. The movie keeps closely to the storyline set by the novel. It is not a movie about German navy men. There is no glory but just the resentment of the way to fight a war in such a terrible situation. Still, the people were there to do the job - with terrible losses on any side. In that way, the situation reflects the life of soldier on any side of WW2 - or any conflict to that extent. Being put in such situation requires a lot of courage and belief in values - not the values set by the leadership but values of your own virtue. Still in me it just fortified the belief: Whatever you do in a war, you do the wrong thing.

The movie itself is extremely well done by any means. Historically accurate as the novel which was written down some decades after the end of WW2 by a innocent war reporter, so there is no space for false glorification but just the bare facts on life on a submarine during a war tour of duty are on display. By today's standards, most of the effects are still very good. Admittely, you can see the boat is a model when you compare closely wave heights and especially water bubble sizes to the boat. The interior shots are perfect with excellent lighting and really portraying the tightness which doesn't compare to living room quarters on today movies (OK, submarines have gained in size but come on!). Nearly a quarter century has passed since shooting, still the movie loses nothing of its fascination due to the excellent editing, shooting and acting. The actors are extremely well cast and resemble the original persons of the novel very well. Most of the actors are today top actors in Germany but at the time of shooting the movie they were relatively unknown. But they already had the skills to make them credible beyond doubt. The story of course is laid out by reality but it matches any good Hollywood yarn of today, reflecting the long weeks of boredom and inactivity changing in a second to full alertness on the attack and eventually sheer terror being hunted down by increasing Allied technical and tactical superiority.

Summing it up, this movie is definitely worth watching as it visualizes the terror of war, no matter which side one is on. It stands out as the prime anti-war movie in my opinion, giving the audience a lot of identification with the actors only to be put of by their final fate - and also by the atrocities they are committing - on purpose or not. 10/10 for sure.
Easily Best Sub Movie
Submarine films are usually good, even if they're bad, and this is the best, and it's not bad at all. Few films have such great art direction that you can feel the temperature actually depicted in the scene, and smell the setting as well. Here you can smell diesel fuel, fifty men and hot metal. The sound effects are fantastic, no other film has ever shown depth charges like this one, and has captured the terror of what it must have been like to ride one out.

Another example of perfect casting, the faces of the crewmen are unforgettable, so you don't get them all mixed up, which is a problem in war films depicting a lot of men in one place. This is very different from today's movies where everyone has that 24 year old bland overfed and overexercised southern California look. The guys in the sub here look pale and exhausted, stressed out and sick after weeks at sea. Still, they come across as very likable, which helps to identify with them as they face such danger from the enemy and the elements.

I saw this film in 1982, but I think it was a shorter version, it was released at a time when there was very little interest in warfare so it was rare to see something so compelling. I saw the 200 minute version recently and was amazed at the length, to me I thought I had just watched maybe a 90 minute movie. That's a sign of how intense the story is. I also preferred the German language version.
The most influential war movie of the last quarter of the 20th Century.
This epic masterpiece has influenced nearly all the war movies, many action and suspense movies, and all submarine movies since it's first release in 1981. Especially in the area of realism. If you look for it, you can see it's influence in such different movies as Aliens, Die Hard, Apollo 13, The Alamo, The Right Stuff, The Hunt for Red October, Tears of the Sun, Crimson Tide, Top Gun, K19 the Widowmaker, and many more. I really think Bruce Willis studied Jürgen Prochnow's portrayal of the Captain, among others like Clint Eastwood, to learn how to express emotions with just his eyes and minimal facial expressions.

The movie starts with the grim statistic that of the 40,000 men who served in U-Boats in WWII, 30,000 didn't survive. No other branch of any military service that fought in WWII had 3/4 of the men who served in it KIA. Military historians have noted that if the commander of the German submarine forces, Admiral Karl Donitz, had been provided with most of the 300 U-Boats he asked for to start the war with, (he had 57, only 20 of them suitable for ocean-going operations), he could have effectively cut Great Britain's supply lines, and probably forced them to capitulate. One of the oldest military maxims states: "Amatuers study tactics, professionals study logistics". Thank God Hitler was an amateur!

The cinematography, lighting, sound design, mock-ups, props, and production design set new standards for the industry. Cinematographer Jost Vacano designed a special Arriflex camera to film most of the interior sequences to convey the claustrophobic atmosphere of the boat. It is a miniaturized version of a Steadicam that has 2 gyroscopes for stability. Vacano wore full-body padding to minimize injury as he ran and the mock-up was rocked and shaken. Wolfgang Petersen insisted that every gage, control, hatch, torpedo tube, piece of equipment, and fitting in the hydraulically mounted interior mock-up had to exactly match that of a Type VIIC-class U-boat, down to the smallest screw. This attention to detail extended to virtually every aspect of the production. Here's an interesting sidelight. All of the main actors speak fluent English as well as German; when the film was dubbed into English, each actor recorded his own part. The German version is actually dubbed as well; the film itself was shot "silent", since in any case the dialog spoken on-set would have been drowned out by the gyroscopes in the special camera developed for filming. I saw the subtitled version when it was first released in the US, and own the Director's cut on DVD. I prefer to watch it with the English language soundtrack, and I swear that it's so well synchronized with the actor's lip movements that I can't tell that it's dubbed!

The strong ensemble cast, many of whom went on to successful careers in the German and American entertainment industry, is an integral part of the movie's success. Since they are listed on the main movie page, I'm not going to duplicate it here. Most of the filming was done in one year; to make the appearance of the actors as realistic as possible, scenes were filmed in sequence over the course of the year. This ensured natural growth of beards and hair, increasing skin pallor, and signs of strain on the actors, who had, just like real U-boat men, spent many months in a cramped, unhealthy atmosphere. Throughout the filming, the actors were forbidden to go out into the sunlight, to create the pallor of men who seldom saw the sun during their missions. The actors went through intensive training to learn how to move quickly through the narrow confines of the vessel. Movies like this, The Great Escape, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy form the basis of a strong argument that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences needs to add an award category for best ensemble cast. Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, the captain of the real U-96, survived the war and was one of the consultants for this movie.

To me, the saddest thought that occurs to me every time I see it is that they wasted all that incredible courage on the biggest A$$HOLE in human history, Adolph Hitler. Boo! Hiss! Pbththt! (The last is a Bronx cheer!) These sentiments are for AH, not the movie. To learn more about it, see the article on Wikipedia. This is one of those movies EVERYONE should watch at least once in their life.
Listen up Hollywood - this is how its done
What can be said about this epic that has not already been said? Peterson has created the grittiest, most realistic war drama ever. It knocks hollywood epics like Saving Private Ryan on their sorry overproduced, oversentimental behinds, it torpedoes other submarine films before they have a chance to shout "dive!, dive!, dive!".

I first saw this in its original form as a miniseries with english subtitles, and if you can find this version then this should be your first port of call, although the Director's cut I now own is also top notch and doesn't miss much from the series.

where to begin? The lurking claustrophobia, the dark humour, the gritty reality of the piece. The excellent acting, the perfect timing, the garotte of suspense tightened with every passing minute in much of the undersea scenes. The lack of any known "star" who you know will just save the day and live to tell the tale. The historical accuracy and attention to detail. The lack of a demonised "other" figure for the enemy. The lack of any kind of preachy message in the finale other than "War is Hell". It has everything you could ask of a TV series or film about the era. 10 out of 10.
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