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Das Boot Movie Review

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A two-and-a-half hour war movie set in a German submarine? Eh! So I passed on Das Boot in 1981. Then I read that it was being re-released in 1997 in a three-and-a-half hour version, and I even heard GUYS grumbling about it at that length. But the restored Das Boot was playing half a block away from my flat for what seemed like forever, so I went to the Bridge Theatre in the spring of 1997, determined to plow through it. I braced myself for the worst, namely, the same thing that happened when I went to see Platoon in 1986 or Secrets and Lies in 1997: Film As Agony. But Das Boot had me in its spell for every second of its 210-minute running time. Wolfgang Petersen, who definitely knows how to helm a thriller (In the Line of Fire, Outbreak), makes the day-to-day tasks aboard the submarine seem significant and vital. Because of the way it was shot, you almost feel as if you're a part of the crew, which must have been a much more shocking realization to American audiences in 1981. The men aboard the sub are doing a job; no one spouts Nazi propaganda. In fact, during one surreal sequence off the sub, when they are honored at a way-too-lavish buffet by beautifully dressed National Socialists, the captain (Juergen Prochnow) doesn't even respond when he's on the receiving end of the “Heil Hitler” salute. The German crew members are not cartoons, which is all I ever saw before Das Boot. And yet, even though I wince every time I hear a depth charge or watch the crew repair a potentially fatal leak, the film makes no attempt to whitewash or glorify the German military effort. In the final sequence, Peterson shows the futility of war as graphically as Lewis Milestone did over half a century earlier in All Quiet on the Western Front. If the longer version of Das Boot winds up in video stores, try breaking it up with an intermission. It's an excruciatingly intense experience. AKA: The Boat.

1981 (R) 210m/C GE Juergen Prochnow, Herbert Gronemeyer, Klaus Wennemann, Hubertus Bengsch, Martin Semmelrogge, Bernd Tauber, Erwin Leder, Martin May, Heinz Honig, U. A. Ochsen, Claude-Oliver Rudolph, Jan Fedder, Ralph Richer, Joachim Bern-hard, Oliver Stritzel, Konrad Becker, Lutz Schnell, Martin Hemme; D: Wolfgang Petersen; W: Wolfgang Petersen; C: Jost Vacano; M: Klaus Doldinger. Nominations: Academy Awards ‘82: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Director (Petersen), Best Film Editing, Best Sound. VHS, LV

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