‘Das Boot’ Series Lends Grit, Perspective to Naval Warfare, Nazi Resistance (TV REVIEW)


The eight-episode Das Boot series, which recently premiered on Hulu in the U.S., is a compelling, claustrophobic wartime thriller that both captures the essence of an inexperienced German U-boat crew and channels the growing fear within a Nazi-occupied France in 1942. With strong production values, accurate scenery, impressively rendered submarine scenes and an ambitious script, the Sky TV production is certainly worth a watch, injecting tension and suspense into familiar wartime circumstances.

Plus, with a far greater female presence than its forebear, Das Boot is, arguably, a more accurate depiction of what defiance may have looked like in the face of trigger-happy Nazis and their occupying force.

The show has parallel storylines across the land and sea, which ultimately blend nicely as director Andreas Prochaska pushes toward the climactic final episodes. The Sky- and Hulu-released production is a nominal sequel to Wolfgang Petersen’s 1981 film – from source material written by Lothar-Günther Buchheim. Picking up just nine months after the events of the original Das Boot, the story tracks U-612, helmed by new captain Klaus Hoffmann (Rick Okon), a young officer trying to live up to the naval standards set by his father, lauded among Nazi leadership for his maritime skill.

Hoffman is thrust into the commanding officer role by Fregattenkapitän Gluck (Rainer Bock, Better Call Saul), an unlikable, ruthless officer, weary after German losses and attempts to keep France occupied. Hoffman assembles a crew, including First Lieutenant Karl Tennstedt (August Wittgenstein) and Senior Radio Officer Frank Strasser (Leonard Schleicher), and sets course for U-612’s maiden voyage. What results is a perilous glide through occupied waters, tortuous nose dives to the seafloor, Allied depth charges, burst pipes, chemical leaks, and, perhaps most importantly, death and betrayal. Hoffman is soon charged with a secret, prisoner-exchange mission and most cope with the physical and mental toll of commanding a Nazi U-boat.

The second part to Das Boot’s authentic, even raw, story relates to radioman Frank Strasser, whose personal life on the French shores unwittingly brings his sister, Simone Strasser (the incredible Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread), into the fold of (armed) resistance. Simone is a kind-hearted interpreter in the German command office, who learns of Frank’s covert plan to flee Nazi Germany with an equally benevolent love interest. Torn between duty to the Reich – or, ultimate safety – and conceivable rebellion, Simone must toe the line between resistance leader Carla Monroe (Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex) and callous Gestapo inspector Hagen Forster (Tom Wlaschiha, Game of Thrones), who’s increasingly drawn to her.

The middle and final episodes of Season 1 depict Monroe’s small, disparate splinter cell tormenting Forster, with hopes that the devastation would galvanize French fighters, who would then mount a sizable offensive against the Nazis in the city of La Rochelle.

While the cross-cutting between land and sea may appear somewhat jarring, the feeling dissipates as the plot threads come together and the narrative braids nicely. This technique actually becomes the show’s greatest asset, allowing it set itself apart from a previous generation of wartime thrillers – this time including female leadership and an impartial look at all parties involved, be it French citizens, a French detective forced into sleuthing for the Nazis, a disgruntled, green German crew, an unapologetic American freedom fighter, a neutral New York businessman, and many more. Director Prochaska deliberately brings various perspectives and effectively humanizes (nearly) all of them – including a stable of German officers and the dirtied crew.

Standouts in Season 1 are Krieps, whose subtle mastery of this torn character seems Emmy-worthy, along with Okon, whose tact and vulnerability shine through as Captain Hoffman. The French splinter cell, led by Caplan’s Monroe, actually seems surprisingly forgettable, though Wlaschiha’s multi-layered Gestapo presence is formidable and terrifying – a villain that viewers won’t soon forget. Draped in black, with slicked-back hair, Forster has the shrewd, chilling countenance of a Nazi officer one would expect to be prosecuted at Nuremberg.

Altogether, Season 1 of Das Boot is top-rate viewing, carefully cutting between strategic sea dives beneath Allied convoys and spy-novel events on the shores of La Rochelle. This is truly an international production, captured in German, French and English, that adds depth and veracity to the bloodstained events of the 1930s and 40s.

Das Boot is now streaming on Hulu.

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