Film Review: “Operation Seawolf” Is Tragic Yet Too Short WWII Narrative
Written by: Adam Vaughn | October 24th, 2022
Operation Seawolf (Steven Luke, 2022) 2½ out of 4 stars.
Director Steven Luke delivers a unique perspective of the final events of World War II in his Operation Seawolf. The film follows a Nazi U-boat, captained by veteran officer Captain Hans Kessler (Dolph Lundgren, Creed II), that launches a final missile strike on New York City, hoping to invoke fear into the heart of the Third Reich’s enemies. Leading a group of young-but-dedicated soldiers, Kessler also struggles to deal with the loss of his family during the war, as well as the crew’s reluctance to follow a new captain. But as Germany’s last battalion prepares for naval warfare, the United States forces, led by Commander Race Ingram (Frank Grillo, This Is the Night), prepare to intercept and eliminate the enemy fleet before they ever have a chance to strike at the U.S.
Operation Seawolf tells a previous unknown chapter of the war. The film’s overall special effects are spectacular, allowing Luke (Battle of the Bulge: Winter War) to focus on his cast of characters and bring their stories to the forefront. Lundgren, Grillo, and the various supporting players drive the film’s narrative, which hardly idolizes the Nazi soldiers and their efforts but humanizes them as men of war, tasked with fulfilling their duties, even if it means imminent death. Overall, the movie is short and sweet, barely 90 minutes long.
Sadly, Operation Seawolf is also a very safe film. It attempts no more than to simply tell the tale of Kessler’s last stand against the U.S. forces, and not much is explored with major characters like Kessler, Ingram, or American Captain Samuel L. Gravely Jr. (Hiram A. Murray, The Last Son), never truly exploring their origins or their reasons to fight. The film is a bit too straightforward for its own good and comes across as a flat and risk-free alternative to telling a new WWII perspective.
While Luke never stumbles with narrative conventions nor cinematic appeal, Operation Seawolf simply never becomes a gripping or momentous epic, and the film’s tunnel-visioned story leads to a bit of a dull experience at times. I nevertheless enjoyed seeing Lundgren in a more heroic role, leading a group of men with a sense of nobility. But as fresh as Luke’s content is for Operation Seawolf, its execution just doesn’t feel bold or vibrant enough to truly impress any viewer who is seasoned in the genre.