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aka - Boat, The
Germany 1997
Directed by
Wolfgang Petersen
210 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Boot, Das (Director's Cut)

Wolfgang Petersen's remarkable 1981 film, originally a German TV mini-series, has been wonderfully improved by a director's cut that has includes 60 minutes of additional footage that has been seamlessly woven into the first theatrical version. As a war film Das Boot is gripping and as an anti-war film, powerful, its realism knocking into a cocked hat British propaganda films like We Dive At Dawn (1943) whilst as a technical achievement it is simply extraordinary.

Impressively scripted by Petersen from the novel by Lothar G. Buchheim, we see the story of the crew of a German U-boat through the eyes of a war correspondent (Herbert Gronemeyer) who is travelling with them for a single tour in order to document their heroic exploits in service of The Fatherland. The reality he discovers, however, is far from glorious. Instead he experiences the psychologically gruelling, physically highly dangerous reality as the sub sets about its murderous task. The action sequences when the sub is under attack are amongst the best simulations of the real thing ever created whilst the characterisations and performances are first class, bringing home the human reality behind the nonsense that is war.

From a directorial point of view the film is stunning (Petersen subsequently went to Hollywood to direct a raft of genre-typical action films), much credit here belonging to cinematographer, Jost Vacano who gives us some breathtaking tracking shots and throughout the film has us "in" the cramped confines of the sub. Perhaps the ending of the film is a little weak  - too obvious in its depiction of life’s irony, too large scale and impersonal compared to the claustrophobic intimacy that has constituted the bulk of what has gone before but notwithstanding this is a remarkable film that deserves the optimal theatrical viewing conditions. 




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