“The Wolf’s Call” (Le Chant du Loup) is a French submarine movie. It was written and directed by Antonin Baudry. He seems to have read some Tom Clancey. The film is set in the near future and fits in with recent modern sub movies. It is currently appearing on Netflix streaming. Unfortunately, it is dubbed, although not badly.
The movie leads with: “Humans come in three types: the living, the dead, and those who go to sea.” If you are the first type and want to see a movie about the third, this may be the movie for you. Or just watch “Jaws”. The Titan is on a mission to recover some French commandoes who are doing some business in Syria. Complications ensue when an Iranian frigate arrives and starts pinging them using a sonar boom lowered by a helicopter. They refer to the sonar as “the wolf’s call”. A depth charging forces them to the surface, but not to worry, they happen to carry an RPG on board. It’s not as silly as it sounds. It turns out the main character is the acoustics expert Chanteraide (Francois Civil). He’s like an acoustics savant. He can tell you if a dolphin is male or female. He could swear he was picking up a stealthy Russian sub aiding the frigate, but no one believes him. He’s in need of some redemption. But first he’s in need for some romance and some skullduggery.
When they return to port, Capt. Grandchamp (Reda Kateb) is promoted to skipper of a new ballistic sub called Formidable. His exec D’Orsi (Omar Si) takes command of the Titan. This is going to get awkward as the Russians invade Finland (again) and the Formidable is sent just in case and the Titan is its escort. Things get hairy when a Russian sub launches a nuke at France and the Formidable is ordered to retaliate. If you’ve seen “Fail Safe”, you know where this is headed.
“The Wolf’s Call” avoids most of the submarine clichés. There is a commando raid, but it is not a big part of the plot and is merely an excuse to introduce future plot elements and lead off with some action. There’s no significant depth charging. There’s no command dysfunction. What it does have is the ridiculously over the top action of modern sub movies. And this escalates in silliness to reach a blazing finale. It’s no more ridiculous than “Hunt for Red October” and “Crimson Tide”, and much better than “Phantom”.
Baudry does a competent job directing. He must have gotten some cooperation from the French navy because those are real subs surfacing and diving. The underwater CGI is fine and not distracting. The interiors are realistic and operational procedures are nicely done. The acting is adequate. Apparently, Omar Si is a major star in France. Civil is hunky, but you won’t mistake him for Tom Cruise. He spends a good bit of time listening on ear phones and looking like a student who is trying hard to look like he is thinking about the correct answer. Everyone keeps a straight face throughout the escalating mayhem. The movie has no humor in it. Not intentional humor, anyway. I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to laugh when D’Orsi approaches the Formidable using a diver propulsion device and carrying a hammer for communication purposes.
If you found “Fail Safe” to be too cerebral, “The Wolf’s Call” may be for you. It has some nice twists and is not totally predictable. It also differs from most of its ilk by not being afraid to kill off major characters. I won’t tell you whether it kills off France.
GRADE = B-