I honestly wish I was more of a history buff to make a deeper connection to the movie I’m here talking about. History is weird for me. *laughs awkwardly* September 11th, Area 51, and oddly enough, the Titanic all fascinate me. I know it seems like such an odd mix of events to be fascinated by. Cults also have a special place within that realm but that’s another rabbit hole that we don’t have time to travel down today. Sorry, Alice. Maybe it’s the conspiracy theories that come with each branch of history. Or maybe I’m just a weird guy. Yeah, it’s probably the latter.
Traditionally, when you talk about history outside of a classroom setting it is most notably about wars of the past. There are some genuine war buffs out there. I’ve encountered enough between my friends and family that I’ve picked up a thing or two. Plus, my love of cinema will sometimes teach me those things. Last year’s 1917 still holds a place within my pantheon for filmmaking that still blows my mind. If you haven’t seen it yet, I cannot recommend it enough. Though, one of the more interesting things about history are the reenactors. My uncle, who is arguably one of the biggest history buffs I know, has friends who have appeared in Gods & Generals because of their love for reenacting.
That passion can often bleed through the screen in that way. You get an entire subgenre of films that transcend cultures. Enter the international film, Torpedo U-235. The film uses World War II as its backdrop to tell the story of a unit which is transmitting uranium to America in efforts to win the war. While the film uses the backdrop of WWII, it knows how to optimize its surroundings fairly well. The first act brilliantly sets up the pieces of the film. Including the tragic backstory of troop leader, Stan (Koen De Bouw), the thought process behind the “suicide” mission of the troop and more. Though, it’s perhaps the story of Stan which brings the most humanity to the film. Effortlessly demonstrating how war’s prices can move from duty to personal, De Bouw absolutely dominates the role showcasing a wide range.
Though, that’s really where the film can feel congested. While the setting is rather intimate, it fails to utilize its’ character as well as it does its setting. Outside of Stan’s daughter, Nadine (Ella-June Henrard), and her lover & fellow shipmate, Filip (Joren Seldeslachts), none of the other characters are fleshed out. Everyone else feels forgettable and run together. Sometimes that happens in ensemble movies such as this. Though Torpedo does find redemption within its compelling narrative, excellent pacing and thrills. There are some serious edge of your seat moments throughout. When they hit, they hit with a vengeance.
Overall, Torpedo U-235, knows how to proficiently utilize its setting but not cast. The film is excellently paced, allowing the narrative to breathe and never once feel rushed. Leading man, Koen De Bouw, serves as the heartbeat for the film with a tragic backstory that reminds us how dark humanity can become in war. Stakes within this war are more personal for him, which allows the film to take on a new weight outside of a simple war movie. Torpedo is boldly vulnerable in that vein. Too bad that can’t spread to the remainder of the cast, outside of a select few. A lack of character development establishes these characters to fade into obscurity. Torpedo U-235 boasts high stakes and great adventure, even if it fails to establish a cast.