In my lifetime, I've seen a number of truly great war films: "Saving Private Ryan", "The Longest Day", "Patton", "Run Silent, Run Deep", "Bridge On the River Kwai", "Glory", "A Bridge Too Far". Preeminent among them, even above "Saving Private Ryan", is "Das Boot (The Boat)", the extraordinary tale of a German U-boat's sortie into the Atlantic during World War II. What makes the film phenomenal is the way in which life in combat undersea is recreated: cramped, smelly, damp, uncomfortable, decidedly dangerous. Especially effective is the apparently accurate reconstruction of a U-boat's interior that serves as the set. When the Kapitän orders a crash dive, and the crew members rush forward to the boat's bow to increase the dive angle, the cameraman follows behind as they run the length of the sub through small hatchways and narrow crew spaces. It's a miracle the cameraman didn't crack his head, or the lens of his hand-held camera, on the sill of a hatch. (Maybe he did!)
Though this is a German crew whose duty is to sink Allied ships, American viewers will have no problem sympathizing with its members when the depth charges begin to fall. Early on, the almost anti-Nazi attitude of the U-boat's Offiziers is apparent. (This may have been a marketing ploy by the film's producers to increase worldwide appeal. However, of all the German military services during WWII, the Kriegsmarine is considered to have been the least Nazified.) In any case, when the sub is ordered to surreptitiously rendezvous with a cargo ship that was intentionally interned in a neutral port for the purpose of U-boat supply and replenishment, the more politically correct officers of the supply vessel invite the U-boat's officers aboard to partake of a lavish buffet. As the former "Sieg Heil!" and exclaim how tough war is, the latter's' disdain for their Kameraden is readily apparent.
The nightmare of undersea warfare is grippingly portrayed. After a very narrow escape for our heroes, we cheer when the sub limps back to port near the end of the movie. This relief soon turns to sorrow and horror at the film's ironic conclusion.
There is no female lead in this production, no romantic interludes, and nothing to soften the hard, gritty reality of men at war. It's definitely a Guy Flick, but none the less excellent for being such. It's most assuredly one of my All-Time Ten Best movies.