This is the submarine to ride: “The Wolf’s Call.”
William Toti
September 5, 2019
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.