Tag Archives: wolfgang petersen

Das Boot – Review

8 Jan

Recently I reviewed Fury, David Ayer’s new World War II film that used the claustrophobia of operating a tank on the battlefield to its full advantage. This claustrophobia and panic was already expertly utilized before in Wolfgang Petersen’s 1981 war epic about submarine warfare, Das Boot. Not only did Petersen make audiences feel uncomfortable with being in a submarine, but also uncomfortable with our ideas about all German soldiers in World War II. What makes Das Boot brilliant is that it isn’t so much about the war, but the dehumanizing effects on individuals who were thrown into it.

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In 1941, the Allied forces and the Nazis were engaged in an epic battle for control of the Atlantic. Lt. Werner (Herbert Grönemeyer) is a German war correspondent assigned to the German submarine U-96, soon meeting members of its crew like the brave and hard headed captain (Jürgen Prochnow). The submarine leaves port and Werner begins to learn what it means to be on a U-boat: boredom, no privacy, and sheer terror. While they’re not sailing the seas waiting for something to happen, they engage in battles of cat and mouse against British destroyer ships with each encounter possibly being their last. While the soldiers may consider themselves to be battle hardened warriors, it is clear the war is taking more of a toll on them than they may realize.

This movie is a classic, there’s really no denying that. Since making this film, Petersen went on to make films like Air Force One and The Perfect Storm, both of which are fine movies, but it’s clear that none of the movies he’s done since has come close to the epic scope and intensity of Das Boot. This film definitely deserves to be considered a classic because it is one of the defining war movies of all time and also just a fantastic film, but, good God, if it isn’t hard to sit through. There are many different versions of this movie, and I have the director’s cut which has over an hour of what was in the original making it three and a half hours long. I’ve seen longer movies, like Lawrence of Arabia as an example, but this one is much more difficult.

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There’s very little in Das Boot that can be called entertaining. Now, before you say anything, that isn’t a bad thing. This movie is an experience, and one that puts you right in the middle of the action thanks to the brilliant camerawork of cinematographer Jost Vacano, who created a camera that used gyroscopes for balance before the steadicam was a really practical thing. There’s really intense and suspenseful scenes of naval warfare as well where the submarine has to hide from the better equipped destroyers and find a weak spot to attack. There’s also a whole lot of waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting. This makes the movie really hard to sit through and feel a lot longer, but it is necessary for the whole experience of the movie. This is supposed to make viewers feel the claustrophobia and fear of being in an underwater tube, and it works better than I really would want it to.

Another thing that makes Das Boot far superior than your average war film is how it treats its subjects. True enough, this is a German production made by a German director so its clear that the subjects are more than likely going to be German, which seems like it may seem awkward considering Nazis. Oddly enough, there isn’t much talk of Nazis and only a little mentioning of Hitler and Churchill. This is a movie about the individual, the human soldier and his battle to just wake up the next morning. This isn’t a movie about ideals or political beliefs with clear good guys and bad guys. It simply, or complexly, shows the reality and unbiased horrors of war.

Das Boot is one of the best war movies ever made. It shows the realities of battle and the effects it has on young soldiers while also showing a realistic depiction of life in a submarine. The battle scenes are intense, the special effects are awesome, and the acting is truly fantastic. As hard as this movie can be to sit through, it’s also a very rewarding experience. Not only do you get to witness a piece of cinematic history, but you also feel like you’re seeing history play out in front of your eyes. It’s a landmark achievement in film and is not to be missed.

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Air Force One – Review

10 Oct

Air Force One, aka Sky Hard, is the story of Officer John McClane after he became president. I’m kidding of course, but it seems every time I watch this movie I find more similarities between it and the original Die Hard. Still, even though these can be distracting, Air Force One is still a pretty good action movie that kept me entertained for its running time.

President Marshall (Harrison Ford) is in Moscow at a dinner celebrating the capture of a warlord from Kazakhstan, General Ivan Radek (Jürgen Prochnow). In his speech, Marshall declares America’s zero tolerance policy on terrorism and negotiation with said terrorists. After his departure with his family, employees, and secret service on Air Force One, the plane is promptly hijacked by ultranationalist terrorists led by Ivan Korshunov (Gary Oldman). He and his team are dedicated to General Radek and will execute a hostage every half hour until Radek is freed. What these terrorists never bet on was President Marshall reverting back to his days of the military and making the terrorists get a taste of their own medicine.

This is a very pro-American action movie that reeks with patriotism. This is an easy way for a movie to become intolerable. I don’t mind a pro-national stance for a film, but not when it’s shoved down the viewer’s throat. With the sweeping music and American flags everywhere to some of the dialogue, this movie just couldn’t get enough. But, and this is a big but, there were obvious criticisms of American policy that speak some truth. When Oldman’s character begins talking about our foreign policies and how the government works, he doesn’t sound like a crazy person. This was obviously intentional both for character purposes and thematically. If he came off as a lunatic, then it would be difficult to believe the sincerity in the writing.

While we’re on the topic of Gary Oldman, he is the strongest part of this movie both in form and performance. Let’s face it, the story here is pretty weak, the bulk of the characters (including the president) are uninspired, but Oldman’s performance is something to be taken completely seriously. While all the other actors do their jobs just fine, he goes above and beyond what is called for. I don’t want to keep comparing this to Die Hard, but think of how great Alan Rickman was as Hans Gruber. This is the level of intensity that Gary Oldman gives Ivan Korshunov. He is an A+ actor.

The special effects are pretty dated in Air Force One, but I still really enjoyed the action. There are excellent gun battles that have surprisingly fine cinematography and jet planes engaging in dog fights that will put you on the edge of your seat. I wouldn’t say the action is nonstop, but a lingering feeling of suspense plays throughout the movie. Unfortunately, the film is just a bit too long and should have ended 15 minutes earlier. The effects and action couldn’t keep me interested by the end.

Air Force One is a fun movie if you are willing to check your brain at the door. It has obvious flaws in its story that makes you wish you were actually watching Die Hard at times, but the action and Gary Oldman’s performance is enough to keep you watching. It’s better than a lot of action movie, but it can’t be place in the upper-eschelons of the genre neither. Still, it’s a fun movie to watch, especially if you’re with other people.