This film isn't titled "The Boat" for nothing. Though there are people on board the German U-boat that serves as the setting, they're all but irrelevant to the story. Frankly, they could be any German soldiers. Christ, they could be German Muppets. Let's face it, if you're trapped in a tiny little submarine with a bunch of other smelly, scared guys, there's going to be a certain amount of tension, a certain amount of freakin' and a certain amount of fighting.
This being a constant, director Wolfgang Petersen chooses instead to focus on the submarine itself, which will bore everyone but geeky engineers whose rising levels of excitement will be apparent as they begin squirming in their chairs and squealing, "Look at the size of those knobs!" and "Oh baby, tighten that hatch!"
Seen one U-boat, seen them all, as far as the rest of us are concerned. Petersen could be spinning his camera around the inside of a Volkswagen Bug for all we care. Frankly, a dozen or so German soldiers down at the bottom of the ocean in a Bug is a lot more scary than cramming them in a submarine. What real chance do you have in a Bug, anyway?
Petersen could have wrung a lot of mileage out of such a concept, especially if he used Muppets to deliver it. They made "Muppet Treasure Island" after all -- why not "Muppet Das Boot"? Helmut D. Frog and Miss Schweinhund wreaking havoc on the Allied fleet while skulking about undersea in a Volkswagen isn't a recipe for a weak art-house re-release -- it's a recipe for the next summer blockbuster.
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