U-571


Directed by: Jonathan Mostow
Written by:Jonathan Mostow
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, David Keith, Jon Bon Jovi, Jack Noseworthy, Tom Guiry
Released: April 20, 2000
Grade: C+

Set in World War II, we are introduced to the characters - the boat’s leader, Captain Dahlgren (Paxton), the second in charge, Lt. Andrew Tyler (McConaughey), Chief Klough (Harvey Kietel) and the rest of the young crew.  We meet them at a glorified ball where they’re celebrating 48 hours of shore leave.  It’s not such a happy time for Lt. Tyler because he’s just been rejected command of his own ship thanks to the Captain’s influence on higher powers.

Word comes in of an emergency assignment and within hours they’re shipping out with a highly classified mission plan.  Upon departure, they find they are intercepting a German U-boat (the U-571) who has been disabled but not destroyed.  On board is a top-secret typewriter that will reveal the German’s encrypted code that has prevented the U.S. from understanding their radio transmissions.

Putting the plan into action goes smoothly until another German submarine arrives and destroys the U.S. sub.  This leaves a handful of men stranded on the German U-571 with no knowledge of the submarine’s operations or technology.  They must somehow manoeuvre the U-boat back home whilst under the threat of the approaching Germans.

On a positive side, U-571 has some solid action scenes that feature some great sound effects, cinematography and direction.  However, it tires quickly and the film’s intentions are compromised by poor dialogue and disgracefully corny subject material.  At least the story doesn’t claim to be based on a true story (ala Erin Brockovich).

I would have much preferred to see a more realistic viewpoint of these heroes.  War movies are a staple of the American public’s cinema diet and it’s a tough ask to follow the recent acclaim for Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line.  War films are about the passion and emotion of fighting for one’s country.  It is not about zany over-the-top action scenes.

So treat this film for what it is.  It’s just a simple action film with little story, little acting and little else.  U-571 is dedicated to the U.S. marines of World War II who fought and captured German intelligence material that helped win the war.  I’m sure those who actually were in the war would find this film one laugh after another.