Das Boot Season One

das1While, 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. 

das2On 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….

Hitchcock (2012)

hitch12016.22: Hitchcock (Network Airing, HD)

Strange one this. It purports to be an examination of Alfred Hitchcock and the making of his classic 1960 shocker Psycho. But it didn’t really come across like that. Instead it seems a very revisionist drama with a largely pro-feminist agenda; I know full well that Hitch and his wife Alma were a team, and that Hitch relied on her for her fine judgement, but this film seems to exaggerate this, almost to the point of stating that Hitch was an overweight, leery old goat who relied on Alma’s creative genius to actually make the movies. Hitch seems to be reduced to supporting character with Helen Mirren’s Alma being the focus of attention. Mirren is in fine, dependable form as ever, but her sheer charismatic force dominates every scene and threatens to sink the enterprise, dominating everything; maybe Mirren is just too good. Make no mistake-this is Alma’s movie.

That said, the film is a fine easy-going, lightweight drama of making movies in Old Hollywood- ‘Mad Men in Tinsel Town’ maybe. But it doesn’t really feel convincing. If there was a darkness to Hitch (his preoccupation with his leading ladies for instance) that informs his best movies, like Vertigo, then it’s largely unexplored. Hitch here is more preoccupied with raiding the fridge and drinking too much, and flailing at recreating his former film glories until Alma steps in and saves Psycho. It feels like fantasy- maybe it’s all true, but I very much doubt it; it always feels like fantasy, a lightweight Sunday afternoon drama. There’s no grit. In a film about Hitchcock, no less.

Anthony Hopkins does fairly well but he never becomes Hitch; buried under all that make-up and the fat suit he approximates the ‘look’ but the script always seems reduce him to something of a caricature, accentuating that tendency in the make-up design. Scarlett Johansson does surprisingly well as Janet Leigh and James D’Arcy’s is excellent as Anthony Perkins; both actors deserved more screentime and hint at what the film could have been. Jessica Biel doesn’t really convince as Vera Miles but she doesn’t have much to work with unfortunately. The problem is simply that the focus is never really the making of Psycho but rather the Hitchcock’s marriage and ‘fact’ that Alma was the real genius behind the scenes.  It feels like revisionist history and that rather grates to be honest.