Friday, August 18, 2017

#1 Das Boot vs. #4 Crimson Tide


CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT:  “Das Boot” is outstanding in this category.  The Captain is enigmatic, but we know why he is cynical and jaded.  He is a veteran of numerous patrols.  Each of the officers is distinct.  They are recognizable archetypes - the fanatical Nazi, the naïve rookie, the well-respected chief engineer, the frat boy Second Watch Officer, etc.  Since it’s a long patrol fraught with boredom broken by intense stress, there is time and opportunity to develop even some of the minor characters.  When the camera pans over the dead at the end, you know these men.  GRADE  =  A

“Crimson Tide” is dominated by Capt. Ramsey and Lt. Commander Hunter.  It is clear through dialogue where each man is coming from.  They are stereotypes, but in the hands of Hackman and Washington, you don’t mind it.  Ramsey is given a dog (which the Navy was not happy about) as part of his character.  Hunter jogs on the sub.  (Try that, u-boat captain!)  Some of the officers get a little development and some of them are interesting, like the Chief of the Boat who idolizes Ramsey but sides with Hunter.  This contrasts with Weps (Viggo Mortensen) who is Hunter’s best friend and yet inexplicably joins the Ramsey faction.  There is virtually no crew development except we know two of them are big Silver Surfer fans.  GRADE  =  C+

                                             Crimson Tide  =  7

REALISM:  No sub movie comes close to “Das Boot” when it comes to realism.  If you want to know what life was like on a German u-boat in particular and any WWII submarine in general, it is a must-see.  There is not a lot of action, which is appropriate for a typical patrol.  Most people do not realize that most subs returned home with torpedoes unfired.  It is the only sub movie that depicts the role mother nature plays in submarine warfare.  It is the gold standard in showing the effects of life in a cramped setting aggravated by lack of success.  The movie leads off with a title card that points out that the u-boat service had a 75% casualty rate and then proceeds to show you why.  GRADE  =  A+

“Crimson Tide” is based on a far-fetched scenario.  Considering the situation in the former Soviet Union when the movie was made, it is plausible that nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands.  However, the U.S. government responding with a preemptive strike goes against established doctrine.  It is also highly unlikely a mutiny as depicted in the movie would take place in the modern U.S. Navy. (The Navy absolutely refused to cooperate with the film.  It did cooperate with “Hunt for Red October”.)  The turmoil that takes place on board the Alabama is classic cinematic license and must be taken with a grain of salt.  GRADE  =  C

HALFTIME SCORE:  Das Boot  =  19
                                   Crimson Tide  =  13

SAILOR BEHAVIOR:  “Das Boot” does an outstanding job in depicting submariner behavior on a u-boat.  The men go through a lot and all of their reactions are genuine.  Other than Bengsch, no one is a hard-core Nazi.  This accurately reflects the make-up of the u-boat service.  These are young men who volunteered for a very dangerous, yet at times exhilarating job.  They run the gamut of emotions appropriate to the various stresses they encounter.  The movie is particularly adept at rendering the crude nature of sailor interaction.  This is the only sub movie that shows someone flicking boogers on a mate.  GRADE  =  A+

“Crimson Tide” requires the officers on a US nuclear sub to divide into two factions to battle for control of the sub.  It is no wonder the Navy refused to cooperate with the movie.   A captain and his exec yelling at each other in front of the crew?  Highly unlikely.  Two groups pointing guns at each other?  Only Hollywood could conjure up such foolishness.  The submarine service has the historical reputation of being a bit lax in discipline, but this movie takes that to an extreme.  As far as exhibiting submariner behavior, the movie concentrates on the officers so we get almost know crew behavior.  They don’t even discuss dames.

                                              Crimson Tide  =  18

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:  Although any submarine movie fan will find “Das Boot” mesmerizing, it was not designed to entertain the masses.  It avoids most of the clichés that most sub movies rely on to gin up excitement.  Just like the voyage, there are long stretches where nothing much happens.  The tedium of u-boat life is painstakingly recreated.  If you love great acting in confined spaces, this is the movie for you.  It is far from an action picture, but when it does get hinky it is pulse-pounding.  GRADE  =  B

“Red October” was probably created in a lab where scientists put together all the ingredients that please 18-45 year-old males.  Alpha males, turf warfare, sub duel, clock ticking to an explosion, etc.  And this is all done with a straight face and with no shame.  It is well crafted and if this is what a modern sub movie will have to be like to be made in the modern cinematic universe, so be it.  Better this than an embarrassing throwback like “U-571”.  GRADE  =  A

FINAL SCORE:  Das Boot  =  37
                           Crimson Tide  =  27

ANALYSIS:  “Das Boot” (1981) and “Crimson Tide” (1995) are part of the fourth wave of sub movies.  The first was the rare movie made between the world wars, the second were the ones made during WWII, the third was the fertile 1950s period, and then we have the modern ones that basically began with “Das Boot”.  “Crimson Tide” is a better example of the modern sub film.  It and “The Hunt for Red October” have taken the sub film into the action genre.  Better to be there than nowhere at all, I suppose.  The cramped environment does lend itself to drama.  And with CGI you can even make a sub chase film!  “Das Boot” is the best sub movie ever made because it bridges the third and fourth wave adroitly. It keeps some of the clichés from the third wave and adds technical proficiency.  Some of its tropes are well-worn, but it manages to do them better than ever before.  No surprise it took a foreign film to accomplish this.  No American studio would have greenlit this movie.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please fell free to comment. I would love to hear what you think and will respond.