Video Picks Archive
Reviews by Matt Heffernan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This week my picks are U-571 (2000 - ) and Das Boot (1981 - ).
The first film this week is a throwback to the war movies of
old, where all that mattered was that the good guys (a.k.a.
the U.S. Military) won. Matthew McConaughey stars as the
young commander of an American crew who commandeers a
German U-Boat during World War II. Their mission: to
bring the Nazis' "Enigma" decoding machine to the Allies through
hostile Atlantic waters. What the film lacks in style and
substance, it makes up for with a spirited pace and perilous
action. Adding to the legitimacy of the film is a respectable
cast, including Harvey Keitel and Bill Paxton. British
critics didn't like the film crediting the capture of
the Enigma to the Americans, even though titles at both
the beginning and the end confess to the fictionalization.
Perhaps they're concerned about illiterate audience
members from getting the wrong impression (even though
those people probably couldn't tell you whether the U.S.
fought the U.K. or Germany in the war).
Making any submarine-based film is futile, really, since Wolfgang Petersen made the second film. Das Boot (sometimes called The Boat when referring to the English version) is the definitive naval war film of the modern era. Jürgen Prochnow leads a now-all-star German cast (they were mostly unknown in 1981, but not for long) as they embark on a doomed mission late in the war, trapped in an aging submarine for months while trying in vain to take down the Allies' presence in the North Atlantic. What is most remarkable about Das Boot is not the incredible camerawork, the gripping atmosphere, or the brilliant performances, per se. This film does what many would think impossible: make Nazi soldiers sympathetic to audiences around the world. They were just doing their job, and had just as little or less regard for Hitler than their Allied counterparts. One of the most memorable scenes is where the whole crew sings "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" together. Yes, you hear that on the German version, which I would recommend, of course. The English dub is pretty good, as well, since most of the principle cast dubbed themselves (the noisy equipment used on the cramped set forced them to dub the German dialogue for most of the scenes, anyway). Of course, you get your choice with the DVD, which has probably the longest audio commentary in existence (to cover the 210 minute Director's Cut), given by Petersen and Prochnow (in English, thankfully).
For more information, visit the Internet Movie Database:
Das Boot (1981)
Guide to Star Ratings
Capsule Reviews © 2000 Matt Heffernan