New Streaming Releases: Torpedo: U-235 (2020) - Reviewed

There are certain qualities found whenever a movie is set on the ocean. 

Adventure and thriller films thrive on the open sea, where unpredictable waters and enemy attacks create both action and suspense. Torpedo: U235  takes the danger under the water, as a crew of freshly trained submarine operators are trusted with a top-secret mission: transport uranium from South Africa to New York in a stolen German U-Boat. Co-written and directed by Sven Huybrechts, this film’s journey through the oceans of WWII is an extremely intense experience to watch.

The film begins with a tone reminiscent of Inglorious Bastards (2009) and Indiana Jones (1981). A group of freedom fighters are killing Nazi’s throughout France, setting complex ambushes and luring them to their deaths. Led by the ruthless Stan (Koen De Bouw) and his daughter Nadine (Ella-June Henrard), the resistance fighters are recruited for a top-secret mission. They travel to South Africa where they learn to pilot a stolen German U-boat, in the hopes of slipping past enemy detection. Despite fighting together throughout France, the crew has a hard time coming together with some new members, as well as existing tensions causing issues. Stan’s fatherly desire to protect Nadine clashes with her desire to be useful to the resistance. There were a few troubling moments of racial based tension between a crew member and a South African local who joins them. The Nazi killing freedom fighters also don’t trust Franz Jäger (Thure Riefenstein), a German U-boat captain who was captured by the Allies, and is teaching the gang to pilot the submarine.

The motley crew becomes a well-oiled machine as they prepare for the most dangerous mission they have ever faced. Before the crew is even under the ocean, the tension starts building and the lighter-toned adventure gives way to a darker war film. This film throws the viewer from one intense experience to another, only rarely allowing the viewer to come up for air. The brutality of war comes through very early, as planes circle the submarine from above, and mines and enemy U-boats lurk in the waters just outside their hull.

The brutality of the film is striking at times. It does not shy away from showing the cruelty that the crew experiences under the water, as well as the cruelties they suffered under the Nazis that led them to become rebellion fighters. The brutality of war is never forgotten. They are gliding along in a metal tube full of air that could explode at any time killing all on board. If one thing goes wrong, they will end up on the bottom of the ocean. Almost reaching horror levels the violence was difficult to watch at times, adding another element of intensity to an already intense film. And the consistently fast pace kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.

One of the ways the film creates intrigue is by setting up something innocuous, then bringing it back for a big payoff later. Fränz Jager will tell a sailor to cut a wire on the submarine, only to make the audience wait just long enough to swing it back around to save the day. The high concept mechanical plot elements give the film an almost science fiction feel. This story could just as easily have taken place in space without too many alterations to the original concept. The rebels are constantly tinkering with the weapons and making plans as they are executing them, giving the film a feel more like a high-concept science fiction story.

The film navigates through lighter moments as well. A romance between Nadine and Filip (Joren Seldeslachts), a member of the freedom fighting squad, is woven through the plot. Through the slower moments where we watch their relationship develop, we are brought closer to crew of U-boat 235. The characters are well rounded, making all the suspense that much more nerve racking.

This film pulls together several formats to create a very successful thriller. The adventure the characters go on is both interesting as a form of alternative history, and very good war film. The character’s struggles are felt throughout, as war throws them into a hellish metal coffin, hundreds of meters below the sea.

-Patrick Bernas

Torpedo: U-235 is now available on all major streaming platforms including Comcast, Vimeo, Itunes, Google Play, Xbox, and more.