Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Torpedo U-235

It is the Red October of German U-boats. U-235 was commandeered by the Allies in hopes it could slip through the Axis naval blockade. Unfortunately, they know it has gone rogue in Sven Huybrechts’ Torpedo U-235, which releases today on VOD.

Belgian resistance leader Stan is not inclined to take prisoners, but it will be hard to blame him when we learn his full backstory. His daughter Nadine is part of his rag-tag team, but the rest of their family was killed by a nasty piece of SS work. As a result, he has earned a rep for ruthlessness that has made him a pariah amongst the Belgian command-in-exile. However, that makes his squad perfectly expendable for this high-risk mission.

Stan and his men will pilot a U-boat loaded with uranium from the Belgian Congo across the Atlantic to supply the Manhattan Project. According to the original plan, captured old-line Naval Captain Franz Jager was supposed to give them several weeks of intensive training and then cut them loose. However, they all find themselves diving for survival when local informers turn them in to the National Socialists.

In many ways, U-235 is like a throwback to old Euro war movies that were filmed in Yugoslavia with vintage military equipment rented from Tito. That’s actually a good thing. This is a lean, unfussy film that clearly enjoys the traditional conventions of the submarine movie. Huybrechts milks the claustrophobic setting with gusto, while not overdoing the predictable conflicts between the Belgians and Jager. In fact, the German captain’s motivations are reasonably believable. (Still, whenever we see a phonograph record in a sub film, we know with absolute certainty someone will accidentally play it at an inopportune time.)

As Stan, Koen De Bouw looks a good deal like Das Boat’s Jurgen Prochnow, which doesn’t hurt. Likewise, Thure Riefenstein could pass for a young Thomas Krestchmann as Jager, which also definitely works. Plus, most of Stan’s crew look suitably hard-nosed and weathered.

Basically, U-235 is an unpretentious riff on The Dirty Dozen and virtually every other submarine movie that came before it, but Huybrechts and his cast always take care of business. They pull us into the film and through the unlikely narrative. Recommended for fans of old school war films, Torpedo U-235 releases today (5/19), via Epic Pictures.