While American audiences know “Das Boot” as a tense 1981 war movie, Wolfgang Petersen’s story of a German U-Boat crew on a harrowing mission during World War II was later released in a six-hour version as a television miniseries in Europe.
So “Das Boot” comes full circle, in a way, in a new eight-hour version that premiered on the streaming site Hulu on Monday. While not as claustrophobic as the original version (for example, half of it takes place on land), it’s still a suspenseful story, adapting and expanding upon Lothar Günther-Buchheim’s 1973 novel.
The show opens with a chilling prologue in which we see a U-boat hunted and sunk by American forces. “F--- them,” a U.S. sailor says cruelly, helping us identify with, if not totally empathize with, the doomed German crew, even though they are on the wrong side of the war.
The focus then shifts to another U-boat, U-612, about to launch into those same dangerous waters from the occupied French city of La Rochelle. The Captain (Rick Okon) is upstanding but somewhat inexperienced, badgered by a First Officer (August Wittenstein) who is a Nazi watching his every move.
After a fire in the radio room, a new radio operator, Frank Strasser (Leonard Schneicher) is brought in at the last minute before the sub launches. But Strasser has a secret; he’s been working with the French Resistance, and was about to pass on some secret plans to his French contact.
He passes the plans onto his sister, a translator named Simone (Vicky Krieps). In attempting to pass them off, Simone ends up getting drawn into the French Resistance herself, connecting with an American agent (Lizzy Caplan of “Masters of Sex”).
The show cuts back and forth between Simone’s adventures on land and the U-612’s exploits at sea. While the original “Das Boot” film showed the tedium and dread of life in a cramped submarine, this version is packed with action, with sudden twists, death-defying escapes and other complications occurring one after the other. Meanwhile, Simone is caught between the Nazis and resistance fighters, and neither side totally trusts her.
As a fan of the movie, I would have thought I would have preferred for all of “Das Boot” to take place on U-612. But, to be honest, that’s a lot of time to spend on that cramped sub. The plot twists that the writers would have needed to come up with to sustain interest would have been even more outlandish.
And Krieps, who more than held her own with Daniel Day Lewis in “Phantom Thread,” is such a terrific, subtle actress that her storyline is a pleasure, even if it flirts from time to time with standard war-movie clichés. This “Das Boot” is worth taking a deep dive into.
Also on streaming: Comedian Gabriel Iglesias gets his own half-hour comedy show in “Mr. Iglesias,” playing a high school teacher back at his alma mater, dealing with a boorish principal. Maybe it should have been called “Welcome Back, Iglesias." It premieres Friday on Netflix.
Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn may be one of the most divisive filmmakers working today (“Drive,” “The Neon Demon”). That controversy continues with “Too Old To Die Young,” his 10-hour series that Amazon Prime premiered rather quietly last week. The series stars Miles Teller as a cop by day, vigilante by night.