While, goodness knows, I’m bored and nervous of all the reboots and remakes we have gotten over the years, a trend which seems in no sight of petering out, it is nonetheless welcome when one turns out to be worthwhile. Such is the case, as unlikely as it seems, with this new* drama series which is based on Wolfgang Petersen’s classic anti-war movie Das Boot from 1981. Or rather, its based on the 1973 novel by German author Lothar-Gunther Buchheim of the same title (upon which the 1981 film was based) and a follow-up novel Die Festung. While the tv series again depicts the claustrophobic war horror of submarine warfare, it also depicts events ashore in occupied France and a resistance cell’s attempts to undermine the German war effort in La Rochelle, a base of the U-boat fleet and chiefly how these events ensnare Simone Strasser, sister of one of the sailors aboard U-621.
One used to the events of the original film, certainly, might be forgiven for thinking the onshore events secondary to the submarine action and padding to enable the eight-episode running time of the first season. This isn’t really the case, as these sections hold their own, mostly thanks to the fine performance of Vicky Krieps as Simone; Krieps of course near-stole the Paul Thomas Anderson film Phantom Thread from Daniel Day-Lewis, certainly no mean feat, which perhaps indicates how captivating she is here.
Other familiar faces here include Werner Ziegler (Better Call Saul, Wonder Woman), Tom Wlaschiha (Game of Thrones), Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men) and James D’Arcy (Cloud Atlas, Agent Carter) so its a pretty full-bloodied international list of thespians.
On the whole this is a really good drama series which, while it lacks some of the sheer intensity of the 1981 film it really does hold its own. Cleverly it manages to take its own path, largely thanks to those onshore sections involving Krieps but also by telling a different story about another boat, and another crew, as this series is set a few months after the events of the 1981 film (something I didn’t catch onto initially). Actually, I suppose that qualifies this series as a sequel rather than a reboot.
If I had any criticisms, there’s a little bit of predictability regards the plotline aboard the submarine and how the various characters interact; the narrative there lacks real surprises, albeit it is certainly well-realised technically. The section in La Rochelle holds a few more twists but there are unfortunately a few slips of internal logic here and there too. On the whole though its a great series and well worth a look, particularly for anyone who’s a fan of the 1981 film. Its not exactly ‘more of the same’ which may disappoint some, but really, otherwise what’s the point?
*Well, I say ‘new’ but this season originally aired last year and a second season has already aired earlier this year, so yep, as usual I’m far off in the shadow of the cultural zeitgeist. Hey-ho, my list of tv shows on my watchlist is longer than my arm….