Based on an autobiographical novel by Lothar-Guenther Buchheim, this all-German production shatters the propagandistic myths about the cold-blooded heroics of Germany's famous U-boats, "Gray Wolves."
This version of Das Boot
is the full-length TV series, originally shown in six parts but here edited into a seamless whole. Director Wolfgang Petersen has since graduated to mega-budget Hollywood productions (2004's Troy
for example), but has never managed to even come close to this, his German-language masterpiece. Petersen and his sterling cast (including Jürgen Prochnow in his best role as the U-boat Captain) went to great lengths to ensure that this claustrophobic depiction of life aboard the German sub U-97 while attacking British convoys in the Atlantic is thoroughly authentic, and totally convincing. Even the set itself, which is a replica of a U-boat interior, had no false walls, so all camera angles are necessarily from within its horribly narrow, overcrowded and sweaty confines. The result is certainly the finest submarine drama ever made, and one of the most compelling depictions of the physical, psychological and emotional effects of warfare.
This miniseries is rather longer than the movie version, which is also available on DVD in a director's cut version. The differences are not in matters of plot, but in the pacing: everything here takes longer to happen, while the crew must sit around, bicker, swear, and sweat it out--the agonizing searching for action, the tension of the attack, the terrible stress of hiding from enemy destroyers. Everything unfolds as if in real time, which is the great advantage a TV production has over a movie (contrast, for example, Band of Brothers with Saving Private Ryan). This, therefore, is the definitive presentation of a World War II classic. --Mark Walker