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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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Review Of The Director's Cut
I've decided not to review the 1981 dubbed cinematic release of DAS BOOT . Instead I've decided to review Wolfgang Petersen's director's cut which is far closer to the miniseries version which most readers will be familiar with

When someone makes an anti war statement it's important that they differentiate between being " anti war " and " anti military " . The Brits don't seem to know the difference and seem keen to make anti- military / anti - soldier self loathing war movies with Paul Greengrass's RESURRECTED a good example . Having suffered the tragedy of Vietnam the Americans finally made anti- war movies that were a million miles removed from the old John Wayne and Errol Flynn star vehicles where a man wipes out 30 enemy soldiers single handed without suffering a scratch . But when it comes to making anti - war movies that shows the horrors of war and the courage of men in battle the Germans are top of the league , heads and shoulders above everyone else . This is because present day Germans realize that the enemy isn't the other side - it's war itself that's the enemy and DAS BOOT is a great example of this thinking

The story starts slowly by introducing us to the crew via the war correspondent who are celebrating a last night ashore before they sail on their mission to sink British convoys sailing from America to Britain carrying vital supplies for the war effort against Nazi Germany . This is where DAS BOOT is superb , I really felt empathy for these crew man . Okay I didn't want them sinking British ships but I didn't want them to die either an opinion that shouldn't be taken lightly since my paternal grandfather was a merchant seaman during the war while my maternal grandfather was a crewman on a destroyer . The fact the crew of U-96 are presented as being utterly human and for this Brit hoping they make it home in one piece is a great achievement

DAS BOOT was nominated for several Oscars and it's not difficult to see why. Watch it on widescreen television with stereo surround and you'll be amazed with the very clear sound effects and sound editing . Perhaps the best technical aspect is the cinematography where during moments of crisis the camera shoots along the length of the U- boat as it follows crewmen rushing about . When a foreign language movie is nominated for several Oscars you just know it's good


This is a superb movie but it's not perfect . Being a German movie Nazis feature at one point but none of them are crew members , the only Nazis featured are the crew of a supply ship who have who have never seen a days fighting in their lives . It's understandable for German film makers to play down the courage of Nazi party members of the Second World War but it should also be remembered that the Waffan SS were exclusively composed of party members and they were the most feared fighting force of the conflict . CROSS OF IRON ( My favourite movie featuring WW 2 ) does make the valid point that because someone isn't a fan of the Nazis it doesn't necessarily make them a good person either . The screenplay also drags due to the fact that there's two subplots of U-96 being damaged and stuck on the Atlantic seabed when one subplot of sinking and then resurrecting the vessel would have sufficed

But the pros far outweigh the cons and I recommend this movie to people who have never seen a foreign language film in their life . It's placing in the IMDb top 250 is well earned . You may be shocked to know that director Wolgang Petersen later went onto to make Hollywood crap like OUTBREAK and A PERFECT STORM
Das Boot (the boat) is without doubt one of the finest movies ever!
This is a review of the DVD version of the 1997 "Das Boot - The Director's Cut".

I remember, in 1981, when this movie came out and received so much acclaim. I didn't see it, mostly because it didn't sound very interesting, and I didn't like watching sub-tilted movies.

I still would not have watched it if my neighbor hadn't brought over his DVD and said, "you have to watch this."

I was overwhelmed. It is one of the very finest movies I have ever seen (I'm in my 50s), maybe even the very best! Yes, it is about war. Set in 1941, it is about the German U-boat fleet. A statistic shown at the beginning says "40,000 German men were sent out on U-boats and 30,000 never returned." This movie is about one of those U-boats, its battles, and the lives of its crew. Two-thirds into the movie the captain says, "You have to have good men. Good men, all of them." And that's really what this movie is all about.

Even though it is almost 3 1/2 hours long, it never becomes dull or boring. Even if you don't like "war" movies. It is based on actual events, and will probably make you want to never serve on a submarine! I watched half on successive nights.

This DVD is the "Director's Cut" which is (we are told in the extra features) almost like a new movie. All sound tracks were digitally remastered. Scenes were totally re-edited and 60 minutes total were added. New "foley" editing was done to provide 8 tracks of sound (down to 6 on the Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD). And, of course, it has both German and English language dialog tracks. All the main characters came back to work on this movie to dub in their own voices in English, so they look and sound authentic. You forget very quickly that it is a dubbed version.

And the sound! You'd better have a super subwoofer, because the dynamic range of sound is amazing. Explosions are the most realistic sounding I've heard on a home theater system. And the perfect surround sound balancing makes it seem like you are really in the submarine.

Do yourself a big favor - see the new release of "Das Boot" if you haven't already.
What impresses me the most about the film, as the title makes apparent, is that it's a German made film about a German U-boat. Patriotism for my own country would tend to make me hate the crew on this ship by definition (especially if portrayed as typical mindless killing machine Nazis), but these characters are so well developed and played like human-beings facing difficult decisions that I find myself sympathizing with these guys.

I love the flow and pacing of the Director's Cut; it takes its time, and does not feel like typical Hollywood formula "first major plot point at minute 12" cookie-cutter routine. Das Boot gives us plenty of time to know these characters, discover how they kill time while waiting for orders, how they feel about their job and each other. Then when the action finally starts: how they deal with the possibility of dying deep underwater, how they react to the sounds of a sub going deeper than it should, the look on their faces as a destroyer is heard pinging them, and dozens of little personality quirks--subtle details that bring the crew to life. It truly does feel like an epic about a submarine crew, and I'm interested in some day viewing the 6 hour TV version.

The underwater battles somewhat remind me of Sergio Leone in that Wolfgang Peterson takes forever and a day to get the fights started. Unlike Leone, once the torpedos are launched and the depth charges dropped, the cat-and-mouse game is ongoing and relentless, but never boring.

And despite the fact that most of the film takes place inside a cramped submarine, Das Boot is never boring to look at; in fact, it's a visually spectacular film (given the dated special effects, who hold up reasonably well and add to the old-school charm). And the freedom of the camera in those tight corridors came as an incredibly pleasant surprise. The color and composition of the shots in those tight quarters -- particularly upon approaching the first destroyer when we get the first real glimpse of the interior prepped for war -- it is both haunting and beautiful.

Jurgen Prochnow delivers the most believable performance of a ship captain I've ever seen on film. All the emotions register on his face--his concern for his own life, ship, and crew; his hatred for the decisions he's forced to make; the disbelieving joy of beating the overwhelming odds--while simultaneously holding it back so the crew sees a strong unmoving man forever in control of the situation. His performance is, in a word, brilliant.

The rest of the cast also delivers amazingly believable performances, and trust me, I could write an entire review on the film's characters and their portrayals. It's both disappointing and satisfying that I'm not given enough space to do so (I wish I could state that about a tenth of the films I've reviewed here on IMDb.) I liked the entire crew of this U-boat, the war correspondent and his character arc as he realizes the truth behind these "heroes", the chief and his longing to return to his wife, Johann and the story of his redemption--all well cast, well acted, and believable.

Another aspect I adored about Das Boot - the controversial scenes simply rolled by with no more or less emphasis than any other statement the film makes. In fact, I saw the film before really reading anything or researching it and found myself somewhat shocked to hear about these "talked about" scenes. Granted, the film does pose some moral questions, but I felt the film handled it with grace and great subtlety, showing what it needs to get the point across and not a step further . . . unlike typical Hollywood where controversy gets bold print, italics, and a highlighter. Maybe I should move to Germany.

I can go on for a long while: Over three hours of wonderful visuals and strong performances, a sparse but great score (this film's lack of music is quite appropriate, making the presence of music much more impactful in its key places). Realistic writing from people who lived the experience first hand. As I said, I can go on for awhile but I'll sum it up and end this review with one statement: Das Boot is the definitive submarine movie.
Packing, genuinely, overwhelming!
Using the term 'authenticity' in connection with any kind of art is rather difficult and daring as well. Sometimes it looks posed or is by certain purposes manipulated. Referring to Petersen´s "Das Boot" however, I consider it justified to call it authentic and true. I think this statement can be strengthened mainly by the fact that Lothar Gunther Buchheim was consulted. He composed the novel this breathtaking movie bases on and he himself was employed as a war correspondent in the Second World War.

The entire plot has no weak points. Starting at "Bar Royal" at the very night before the forces living journey of the submarine crew begins, the director fittingly manages to confront the audience with the protagonists and their way of dealing with the pounding uncertainty. Once put to sea, the character of the scenes changes abruptly. Every member of the crew and the audience as well comes into very close contact with the tightness of the action space. At this point it is necessary to underline the excellent work of the cameramen. The fast and partial hectic cuts draw an exact picture of the drama on board. Too do not forget the outstanding lighting. However besides this abundance of obvious suspense, there are also a number of moments going into in-depth psychology and thoughtfulness. To outline only a few of them: At "Bar Royal", when the chief engineer reflects about the uncertain fate of his family, or when the captain, with a kind of 'Weltschmerz' in his eyes, is astound and proud of the unbelievable efforts of the crew. It would probably be too laborious to refer to the decisive symbols the director uses, therefore I recommend this movie to everybody, especially those who are interested in the Second World War.

It presumably sounds pretty weird, yet I suppose that mankind gladly participates on the misfortune of others, without being closely involved with it. This closing notion may account for the huge success of this movie.>
Good guys - bad guys (Caution - spoilers)
I find the most intriguing aspect of this movie is the way, no matter where you are from, you end up pulling for these guys and hope they make it. I am not a veteran of any war, and not old enough for WW2, but my dad fought against the Axis and they were his mortal enemies, but this movie shows how young boys are just the cannon fodder of wars, while the men who started it were the real enemy, the real evil. These were kids that just wanted a lady at their side and a bottle of booze with them, as were all soldiers from any army. We, America, Great Britain, France etc., fought the Nazis, not Germany, not the people, certainly not the kids. I actually was saddened by the British raid at the end of the movie, even though Britain was an ally and to this day one of my country's closest friends. A great many of the soldiers and seamen, on both sides, weren't good guys or bad guys, just brave kids who did what they were told to do. One day maybe the men who start these things will end up in a cramped, stinking U-boat, and see first hand what their actions lead to. Anyway, I can't believe how much I pulled for "the enemy".
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.
The Other side of War
Wolfgang Peterson, wrote and directed this superb film of submarine life during World War II. When first seen by an American audience, reactions were mixed. Halfway into the film, the German crew begins to exhibit some universal traits which touch the heart of anyone fighting for a cause. Gone is the reason why the seamen are fighting often-times an unseen enemy. The reasons are replaced by a plethora of dangerous and certainly dramatic events which allow an audience to see the life and death struggle of all veterans. The visual heart of this unusual movie, is that of an experienced German Captain (Jürgen Prochnow) who sails the Atlantic, meeting both friend and foe alike. With him are his aids, Lt. Henrich (Lehmann-Willenbrock), Herbert Grönemeyer as Lt. Werner and Klaus Wennemann who is superior as Chief Engineer. When they realize the war is nearly over, they head for home. Unfortunately they are spotted, targeted and attacked by the English navy. Now comes some heart-pounding action as most of the crew expect to die before reaching home. Seen from the perspective of an American audience, one expects the inevitable. Yet, from the audience point of view, one can not help but sympathize for the Captain and his valiant crew. A Great film indeed. ****
True gritty war movie
I watched this movie for the first time on DVD, at home alone and with headphones on.I was gripping the edge of the chair during the tense underwater scenes, I felt I was aboard the U- boat . A sure sign of a great movie is when the viewer feels a part of it. The whole cast were believable, as were the characters they portrayed. A definite 10/10 movie. I preferred the sub titles to the dubbed voices concept,as the film is shown and heard as it was meant to be. Director Wolfgang Petersen takes us through a fantastic journey,giving us an insight into the fun, fears and general life aboard a German submarine during the second world war. The films ironic ending tops off the tragic reality of war,regardless of what side you were on.
The best war movie ever made!!!
Writer-Director Wolfgang Peterson proves that he knows how to do his stuff. Forget Saving Private Ryan. This, along with Platoon and Apocalypse Now, are the ultimate war movies of all time. Superb direction from Peterson, almost impossible cinematography, great editing and sound design make this movie awesome. Made on a small budget of just $15m, Peterson insisted that he would film entirely inside a U-boat so that the entire cast and crew would get the real feeling of living in a U-boat. The results - the best war movie ever made. 11 out of 10!
An Interesting Combination of Genres
As a former US Navy STS3 (third class submarine sonar tech) I remain convinced (along with the other "bubbleheads" who have posted here) that "Das Boot" is to date, far and away the best "submarine film" ever. Unlike this one, most films of this genre are not true "submarine films," but either dramas, comedies or political thrillers where the submarine is a mere prop, a backdrop.

In "Das Boot," the characters are well developed and subtly varied, and the camaraderie among is not forced or self-conscious, but is simple and straightforward and flows from the shared experiences of being underway and in close quarters. The submarine itself is the main character, the entire crew "becomes" the sub and all action and meaning follows from that. Moreover, the differences between the captain and the "Number 1" (executive officer) character are quite believable, #1 almost satirically but perfectly reflected as the-insufferably-ambitious-jerk-who-is-already-planning-his-post -military-political-campaign.

Juergen Prochnow's character as the captain is quite compelling. His moody and long stares, economy of words and the pensive air surrounding him him coexist well within his firm and able but low-key leadership style. The sea and its awesome power and wonder mean more to him than anything and his humility (and his humanity) seems in large part drawn from his seafaring experience which long predates the war.

The air of pervasive fatalism that surrounds the U96 no matter what happens touches well upon a little recognized fact that the German Kriegsmarine (Navy) was, in contrast to the other branches of the German military in WWII, all but ignored; this disdain stemming largely from Hitler's utter lack of serious knowledge or interest in the role of sea power in warfare.

Hence, the U96's enemy is not really the Royal Navy's destroyers or patrol planes, rather it is its own command in Berlin under whose orders it ostensibly operates, and, at a deeper level, the power of an unforgiving sea and each sailor's own fears. The captain's anger over not receiving any orders, his vocal ridicule of Hermann Goering and his blank, almost contemptuous stares at the small photo of Admiral Karl Doenitz are thus all quite in character. The U96 and the other boats have been, for all practical purposes, mere pesky details the Fuehrer has already written off and so the physical isolation of the U96 crew is thus compounded with a very real sense of abandonment, not even allowed the simple victory of mere survival, which makes the sailors' tragic fate that much more poignant.

Although I am no film critic, I get the impression that the director (Wolfgang Petersen) had a great appreciation and knowledge of the cinematic techniques of Akira Kurosawa as well as of Russian filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky and of great familiarity with classic English war dramas like "Sink the Bismarck." His Kurosawa-like portrayal of the often baffling nature of human behavior in various situations, the Russian literary theme of the individual facing the colossal power of nature (in this case, the sea) and the meticulous attention to detail, continuity and realistic characterization representing the best of British cinema are all apparent here.
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