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Articles Movie/Video Review Submarines

This is the submarine to ride: “The Wolf’s Call.”

After being asked to watch and review the horrible limited series remake of Das Boot on streaming TV, I decided to write this review of the French submarine movie, “Call of the Wolf,” to point the requestor towards something that wouldn’t drive a submariner crazy while watching. First published in IMDB.
After forcing myself to sit through 4 of the 8 episodes of the horrible Hulu miniseries “Das Boot,” (see my review titled “Abandon This Ship”), John Jones pointed me to a French submarine movie, “The Wolf’s Call” that he said was on the big screens in Ukraine. I found it on Netflix.
As bad as the Hulu/German submarine miniseries “Das Boot” is, the French submarine movie “The Wolf’s Call” is that good.

(The movie starts with a wonderful Aristotle quote: “There are three kinds of human beings, the living, the dead, and those who go to sea….” What a great quote. Because most “famous” quotes are improperly attributed (examples, Einstein never said “spend 55 minutes studying problem and five minutes solving it,” Mark Twain never said “golf was a good walk spoiled,” Abraham Lincoln never said “better to stay silent and let them think you a fool…”), I looked for verification that Aristotle really said this, and found none. Oh, well. It’s a great quote for those of us who’ve spent years at sea, so I’d like it to be accurate. But I digress.)

 

As bad as the Hulu/German submarine miniseries “Das Boot” is, the French submarine movie “The Wolf’s Call” is that good. Not only is it good, it may be the best submarine movie since “Crimson Tide” (I have a personal affinity for that one.). Certainly, the best submarine movie of the 21st Century. (Sorry George Wallace—I loved your book, but the “Hunter-Killer” movie was just a tiny bit over the top, so rates a tiny bit below “Wolf” from my point of view. Maybe I’m tired of Hollywood casting so many Brits to play Americans, but Wolf was incredibly nuanced, and does the best job of any movie since “Hunt for Red October” in conveying the nail-biting nature of undersea warfare.)

 

A few highlights:

 

  • Gotta love a movie that includes both submarines and SEALs. Or do the French refer to their SEALs as “FROGs?” (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)
  • Apparently, the French man their sonar stacks with officers? I qualified on sonar when I was Sonar Officer, but I could never do anything like what this dude does. This Ensign is better on sonar than the best ACINT specialist I ever saw. Maybe that’s the way the French really do it?
  • How is it that the French have better underway uniforms than we do?
  • These guys have implemented my Full Spectrum ASW concepts better than the US Navy has. Warms my heart. They actually use active sonar to shape a submarine captain’s behavior, just like we wrote!
  • Dig that boomer wardroom! Submarines by Four Seasons. All we had was a fish tank in Crew’s Mess on Indy.
  • Best line from the movie: Admiral to Captain: “Why doesn’t that computer work?” Captain to Admiral: “Because this is France.”
  • Finally see a sailor struggling to move around the boat in an Emergency Air Breathing (EAB) device, just like I used to do. Now that’s realism!
  • Console monitor display from the movie that I wish I had on my submarine: “Torpedo Party!” When I saw this computer screen on the movie submarine, I thought they were about to play music and break out beer in the Torpedo Room. But it turns out the display really said “Torpedo Partie,” which I guess in French means “torpedo away” (as in, Torpedo Launched). Too bad, Torpedo Party sounded like a lot more fun.
  • Hey, they actually used the escape trunk! But the dude didn’t do his “ho ho ho…” on the way up to the surface and would have been embolized. Glad I only had to do that once (in sub school).
  • They actually did a wreath-laying like we did on the Indy in honor of the cruiser Indy. But they did it from the deck of a boomer with way higher freeboard, in protected waters, so nobody had to risk getting washed overboard.

And of course, the movie wasn’t perfect, so I can’t help but point out a few quibbles:

  • They continuously pass “rig ship for ultra-quiet” on the 1MC. That’s like screaming “BE QUIET!!!” at the top of your lungs…. Kinda defeats the point.
  • An officer pops positive for cannabis and is surprised this happened?
  • I’m certain there must be a French law that requires all French movies to contain at least one unnecessary/inappropriate scene. This one is no different. How unfortunate—it limits the spectrum of whom I’m willing to recommend the movie to.
  • The actors’ salutes are all funky. Some do it “Brit style” (palm forward), some American style. Are they really this confused in the French navy?
  • French submarines must be part of their Coast Guard because they never operate so far from shore that a helicopter can’t reach them.
  • Oh-oh… tired cliché #1: the XO’s fighting the captain again. Seems to have happened in every submarine movie since “Run Silent Run Deep.” Glad my XOs Chas Doty and Brian Fletcher didn’t behave this way!
  • And yes, of course, tired cliché #2: a torpedo falls and injures a sailor. This phenomenon happens in every single submarine movie ever made but never happened on any one of my boats. How lucky I must have been. Wait, my first boat did drop a test shape into the torpedo room, maybe it’s not so silly after all…
All in all, very entertaining, and recommended.
Categories
Articles Movie/Video Review Submarines

Das Boot: Abandon this Ship

I was asked to do this review of the new submarine miniseries that was streaming on Hulu. Having loved the Wolfgang Petersen movie of the same name, I had high hopes for this remake. As you will read below, I was sorely disappointed.
As a submariner, an aficionado of submarine movies, and someone who loved Wolfgang Petersen’s original film, I was really looking forward to seeing the limited series of “Das Boot.” Petersen’s film is one of my favorites. He really gave voice to the gritty, stinky, unpleasant, fear-stricken reality of a submarine in combat. Because there is just so more depth you can go into with a miniseries that you can’t cover in even a 2-hour feature film, I expected the limited series to be a remarkable experience.
…a movie about U-boats turns itself into an opportunity to sneer at the nation that liberated Europe.
But over the first four episodes of this series (the point at which I finally had to stop watching), the show crossed from merely bad filmmaking, into the realm of egregious, outrageous nonsense. Where it crossed the line: by grossly misinforming viewers, the majority of whom are unaware and ignorant of World War II history and events, of some of the most significant events in the European theater of operations. For example, the only American character in this European Union-made drama is a distinguished American citizen who is actually a war profiteer secretly selling the Nazis equipment in order to finance his ambitions to be president. So, in part, a movie about U-boats turns itself into an opportunity to sneer at the nation that liberated Europe. This plot point crossed the line from merely being a dramatic device to outrageously offensive crap. Draw your own conclusions as to the truth of such a message, but it outrages me. If you think my reading of that message is over the top, then I’ll just tick off a few of the hundreds of the tired cliches that make this a bad fit of melodrama masquerading as suspense:
 
  • Unproven officer trying to live up to his hero-father’s legacy? Check.
  • Mutinous XO trying at every turn to undercut his unproven captain? Check
  • Melodramatic backstory of Gestapo officer trying to woo French citizen by proving he’s just a normal guy forced to uphold the orders of those evil men back in Berlin? Check.
  • Communist partisan power female figure who chain-smokes cigarettes while embarrassing the male partisans into action? Check.
  • Second partisan female who is captured in perhaps the stupidest, most canned bit of police action you can ever imagine, then goes to prison and endures relentless torture protecting the identity of “the guys,” eventually volunteering to die rather than snitch? Check.
  • Gratuitous violence against women? Check.
  • De rigueur scene where torpedo breaks loose in torpedo room critically injuring a sailor? Check.
  • German sailor who gets a Jewish girl pregnant and has to get fake American passports to get her out of the country, a scene straight out of Casablanca? Check.
  • Sailor actors leaning into nonexistent wind while supposedly steaming at Ahead Full on the surface, but are really bobbing up and down on a fake submarine that’s dead-in-the-water, going nowhere? Check.
  • Nearly everyone understands and speaks English when it’s advantageous for the story for them to do so, but otherwise speaks only in subtitled German? Check.
  • The Gestapo officer and the German Navy Commodore break into English whenever they are alone with each other, while neither can actually speak French, the country that they have occupied and in which they live? Check.
  • The misunderstood Nazi who is really a nice guy but is merely following orders from those evil dudes in Berlin? Check. (There must have been a couple million nice guy Nazis merely following orders during that war.)
  • The Nazi sympathizer whose eyes are opened in response to insidious action by the Nazis, eventually turning her into a Partisan? (I didn’t actually stay with the program long enough to confirm that she does, but that’s where her obvious trajectory is taking her, so Check.)
  • The jack-booted Nazi who thinks those cowardly, traitorous dudes back in Berlin aren’t pushing hard enough to win the war? Check.
  • The happy, cheerful French house of ill repute with welcoming kind-hearted French women, who say they are merely allowing the jack-booted, women-beating German soldiers to “have a good time?” Check.
  • The prisoner exchange of an American who has an audacious, affected, over-the-top New York accent, the kind you only hear in movies? Check.
  • The “it was a setup!” prisoner exchange on an American ship that somehow couldn’t have anticipated that the German submarine would be able to sink them if the exchange didn’t go as planned, and are “shocked shocked” that the bad Germans would ever do such a thing, forcing the Americans to do what they actually committed to do? Check.
  • The partisans who have dialogs where one side speaks nothing but English while the other side responds with nothing but French, like C3PO talking to R2D2? Check.
  • The captain who is held out as a coward by his crew when he decides to actually follow orders to disengage from battle and instead carry out a special operation of great importance to the defense of Germany? Check.
  • The captain who, when a sailor somehow fails to die after being shot by a firing squad, pulls out a Lugar and shoots the kid himself? Check.
Oh, I could go on. But I won’t. I’ve given up watching the thing.
 
I had to GIVE THE BOOT to “Das Boot”