on June 20, 2003
This movie attempts to present itself as an historically based submarine adventure. Unfortunately, it is grossly inaccurate historically, to the point of being insulting;especially to the Brits. They seized an enigma device before we even entered the war. The submarine warfare is so over the top it's absurd. If you want to see crazy stunts and over the top action I'd recommend a good Bond film. If you want to see a great WW2 submarine flick, see Das Boot. Forget about this turkey.
on January 5, 2003
I must be some kind of submarine film addict, because I just can't resist films on this subject. "U-571" is yet another great war film that delivers non-stop suspense and tells a good tale. "U-571" is almost an American version of "Das Boot", with some of the same feel of claustrophobia and intensity that the German U-Boot film created.
The story is based on the capture of the Enigma Coder, a typewriter-like device that, with a key book, was nearly uncrackable. It took a monster computer and master mathematicians to break this code, and the fact this code had been compromised was secret until 1974. (as an aside, today with the computer power available could have broken the Enigma in a matter of seconds.) But the story of "U-571" really is a compilation of several missions to capture the Enigma coder, and the subject is actually what kind of men have the bravery needed to go on such deadly missions, in metal tubes that face death every time they plunge beneath the ocean.
Screenwriter/Director Jonathan Mostow created a film that really focuses on the bravery of ordinary men doing extraordinary deeds. The cast was well-chosen to avoid a mega-star that would overwhelm the tale; Matthew McConaughey as the lead does a terrific job, but he pitches his acting down to a level to let the rest of the cast shine as well.
The special effects are nothing short of spectacular. The set builders created such realism that it was hard to believe that the film was not set in an actual running submarine.
Though the story is not "historically" accurate to the events of the capture of the Engima, the film isn't really about the Enigma mission--it's more about the people who undertook such a heroic and difficult task. This is a very well-written, well-directed film that, if you love suspense or war films, will have you on the edge of your seat the entire time.
The sound is excellent on this DVD--especially the surround sound which is very rich, providing the environmental envelope of rainfall and depth charge explosions all around. The extras are well worth watching, especially the section on building the sets, which was amazing.
on February 27, 2003
In "U-571", an untested USN officer named Tyler (Mcaunaghey) leads the green crew of an obsolete USN submarine on a daring, top-sectret mission of modern piracy against a crippled Nazi U-Boat. It's 1942, dark days for the allies everywhere, and especially in the battle of the north Atlantic. Freighters steal across the Atlantic in convoys, desperate to get their needed cargo to Europe to shore up the western front against Germany. German sailors in U-boats hunt the convoys down in organized wolfpacks. In a desperate battle for both sides, the Germans lost about 30,000 men, but came close to cutting the Atlantic off. In the beginning of the flick, allied intelligence picks up the U-571's distress call, the having barely survived a crushing depth charge attack. Quickly realizing they've got a chance to grab the sub and its sensitive equipment intact, Washington hits upon a plan of modern-day piracy. They commandeer a tired "S-Boat" - an American submarine already obsolete before WWII - to rendezvous with U-571 under the disguise of rescuing German sub. The S-boat's inadequacies are painful, but her small size makes her a convincing stand-in for U-571's sister ship. Washington cares less about U-571 than its "Enigma" - an early generation of calculator used by the Kriegsmarine to decode/encode messages to and from its warships. By capturing an Enigma, the allies hope to break the German codes and learn to navigate its ships around the Nazi subs which, stealth aside, are slow and very vulnerable. Fooling the Germans at first, the initial operation comes off flawlessly - and our boys capture both Nazi-sub and enigma in one of those otherwise bloodless operations we've seen in countless war movies. But that's only a set-up for when the plan goes bad: U-571's actual sister-sub appears, torpedoes and all, and U-571 becomes the kind of movie we haven't seen that much of. With their own sub sent to the bottom, Tyler and the rest of his crew must save U-571, learn the secret of driving the foreign sub and sail her across the Atlantic. Tyler is a whiz at subs, but he's unproven. Instead, he relies on Chief Klough (Harvey Keitel) to explain what "Sub School" could not. After narrowly defeating U-571's sister-sub, Tyler and his crew settle on the slightly less impossible of two plans - sail for England, getting as close as possible without being sighted...by anybody. (Should the Germans learn of U-571's capture, they will certainly modify both Enigmas and their codes, and Tyler's efforts will have been in vain.) Discovery is less likely in an eastward course, even though it means braving waters swimming with U-boats. By the end of the flick, Tyler will have barely survived a game of "cat and mouse" with a German destroyer, and a near Mutiny with his own crew.
This flick took a lot of lumps for realism stretches, though most deserve qualification. The film entirely omits any mention of England's recovery of an Enigma machine in 1941, years before we Yanks. Simply ignoring history is bad, but it doesn't make the story as implausible as "U-571"'s many British critics would insist. Given how tight-lipped the British were on any subject connected to their ability to read German codes, it's entirely possible that too few American planners in '42 would have known enough about England's possession of Enigma to declare Tyler's mission unnecessary (England declined to declassify their work on Enigma after the war's end, keeping the wraps on until the early 1970's). A cursory mention of England's seizure of Enigma does not otherwise correct the historical flaws of the film (the story is still inexplicably bereft of any British characters, and it would have taken little to actually add some to the script). On the flip side, a painfully accurate story obviates a more stinging barb on the Brits - one that both acknowledges that they got Enigma first, but also that they kept their exploits silent even knowing that their allies would risk their own men on near suicidal missions to nab what the British already had. (Can you imagine the howls had "U-571" ended with our heroes turning over their hard-won prize to the RN...only for it to join hordes of similar machines silently amassed by the allies, blind, deaf and dumb to the sacrifices of Tyler's men?) The subject of England's stinginess with anything relating to German cryptography, at the cost of American lives, is discussed overtly in Robert Harris's great novel "Enigma", a novel which Has not been criticized for historical inaccuracy. Further, while critics here think this is another attempt at Hollywood revisionism, it's easy to point out that Hollywood holds no monopoly in that area, as anybody who's ever seen "Breaking the Sound Barrier" can attest - in which we learn that the first man to fly faster than sound was actually a British Pilot flying a DeHavilland fighter. While "Breaking" boldly claimed for England credit for the first manned supersonic flight, 'U-571' at least had the decency to set its story a year after the Brits Enigma recovery.
Taking an unrealistic premise - Tyler and his crew assimilating the incredibly complicated and undeniably foreign ship - "U-571" works in a very realistic way, with the script showing how quick thinking and not a small amount of luck saved the day, and how narrowly Tyler and crew beat the odds. The cinematography goes even further, letting us know that, contrary to what we've seen in "Run Silent, Run Deep" and "Destination Tokyo", Submarines were cramped and dark, leaked water, were very slow, groaned under the pressure of the water above and, when surfaced, dipped and climbed on waves like a tin can. This is probably the only flick since "Das Boot" to convey just how impossible a job it was to fight in subs in WWII. It's no "Das Boot", but "U-571" now makes it impossible to watch any of those quaint and propaganda-laden movies made during the war.
on January 18, 2003
This is a wonderful movie which highlights the leadership growth of a young naval officer suddenly thrust into command under incredibly challenging circumstances. Originally evaluated by his captain as "not ready" for command, Lt. Tyler is faced with a striking array of challenges.
This is a story, primarily, of leadership at sea. We often forget that our fighting men are often asked to do the nearly impossible, as portrayed in this movie. I have seen just about every submarine movie around, and in my opinion this one compares favorably with "The Enemy Below," "Das Boot," "Run Silent Run Deep" and other greats. It is far more watchable than "Das Boot"--U-571 does not have any of the dull, draggy interludes that punctuate "Das Boot" (and most other European movies). The storyline is brisk, the acting is crisp and authentic, and the story grabs you from the very first moments. This is a great movie.
This movie has wonderful sound effects. The visuals are utterly real--the viewer feels transported into an old WW2 vintage submarine, and from this realizes an appreciation for the heroism of the men who fought a war inside these steel tin cans.
Some of our European friends are bitter because this story is about the US Navy mounting a mission to capture a German enigma machine. While it is true that the Brits did more of this than did America (after all, they were in the war longer, and the US Navy had to fight two wars at once) it is also true that the US Navy did capture an enigma machine during the war, through heroism and competence. There is nothing amiss here by virtue of the movie being about Americans.
Put aside your prejudices and enjoy this movie! It is a story of leadership and bravery, not just a "shoot-em-up." Watching Lt. Tyler mature into a superb submarine skipper and gain the respect of his crew is really what this story is about--and a great story it is.
on May 10, 2001
Wow! If only my grandfather would have seen this movie, too.
A German Type VII submarine that survives explosions of depth charges less than 10 meters away, torps another dived submarine, dives below 200 meters regularly, goes muzzle to muzzle with a German destroyer (how did this thing get into the Atlantic anyway?) and sinks it with a single torpedo (not to mention an explosion like a Chinese nuclear torp)?
Sounds like the dream of 30.000 seamen come true.
Okay, enough sarcasm. It is a nice-made movie. What really surprised me is that - unlike most compareable movies - the original crew of U-571 was really speaking German language and all the gauges, levers and buttons have the correct markings. I really would like to know, if the U.S. version of this movie has subtitles, because the European version has none. Compared to - naturally - Das Boot, the optical presentation of U-571 is much better after 20 years, but the athmosphere of being inside such a steel tube is being presented much better on board of U-96 (a Type VII sub, too). Another point where U-571 can't win against Das Boot is Klaus Doldinger's great soundtrack of DB, but on the other hand, being much more action-oriented, U-571 got no long periods of talking, waiting and thinking that made Das Boot sometimes hard to bear for the typical action freak.
If you like submarines, light stories, well-made action and have seen movies like Hunt For Red October, Crimson Tide and Das Boot, you've found the right movie.
(but I still don't understand how a Messerschmidt 109 recon bird can get that far into the Atlantic Ocean...)
on July 3, 2002
As action films go,this is pretty good.Unpack your intelect at the door,suspend all rational and fact and truth on the coat hanger then sit down with your popcorn and watch this good-old-action film.The reason why i missed a star is because,again,the americans cannot face facts.This is proved in so many films where America is the center of all things exciting-1)All aliens visit America. 2)No matter what happens in history,the Americans did it.How would Americans feel if we in England produced a film depicting England sending up Apollo 13 full of british astronaughts,and the first man on the moon was a brit? I can tell you-outcry! Nothing wrong in altering the truth a little for the sake of entertainment,but as something as important as ww2,where brave Americans and British people (amonst other nations)lost their lives,too much altering to this degree is insulting!What next? America beats the Agentinians for the Falklands? course not,its too recent.Ok,less of the grumbling-yep,its a great boy's own adventure,and worth a peek!
on August 17, 2000
It seems the war genre, despite providing some of the better films of cinematic history, has become one of the quickest to become cliched. The major problem that deterred the enjoyment of U-571 was how disappointingly ordinary some of the charecters in it were. They all seemed to be stereotyped relics from other war movies, which, given the talent at hand here, I found to be rather unaccetpable. Although in fairness, I don't think this film cared much for its second world war setting, it just seemed to be set against the backdrop of this, and used it as an excuse to create a not awfully thrilling action film. None of the performers seemed to be dishing out the Saving-Private-Ryanesque oscar hammieness such a film would have definitely required. On the thriller front, I've never really found a team of men racing around an underwater boat, shouting a load of mathematical terminology ,e.g., in this case metres, yards and so forth very thrilling, yet this film seems to rally around this rather than explore the interesting concept behind the story as much as it could have. None of the performances, ranging from Matthew McConaughey to Bill Paxton to Harvey Keitel, were genuinely emoting, because, perhaps thanks largely to the script, they were either too in-your-face, or too cliched. It's a shame because I was really hoping to enjoy this movie. 1/5 star.
on October 26, 2000
Every so often a film comes along that so completely fulfills the demands of its genre that all such films that come after it seem to be little more than pale imitations in comparison. Such a film is the 1981 German classic, `Das Boot,' undoubtedly the gold-standard against which all other submarine sagas must fairly or unfairly inevitably be measured. Since that film pretty much exhausted the great humanistic themes of brotherhood and survival to be found in this category of films, the American submarine films that have come afterwards `The Hunt For Red October,' `Crimson Tide,' and now, `U-571' have been forced to turn to high level suspense plotting to supplement the standard genre conventions. Each of these films has its moments but, the truth be told, one ends up invariably comparing these pieces of pulp entertainment to a genuine work of cinematic art and there is just no comparison. In a way, this genre, more than virtually any other, suffers from the cramped restrictions of its underwater setting. There just isn't a lot to DO in a submarine and, hence, the directors of these films are obviously very limited in the way they can approach the material both visually and dramatically. Thus, we are subjected to the endless tight close-ups on the men's worried, perspiring faces as they cast their eyes upward and strain their ears during the inevitable depth-charge and how-low-can-they-go-before-they-break-apart sequences. We know that before long we will be watching that needle moving precariously into the red zone on the depth gauge, followed by the customary popping bolts, creaking hull and spouting water mains as the ship challenges the limits of its diving capabilities. (Not one of these subs, in the history of the movies, by the way, has ever failed this test). To get a little visual action into the picture, the cinematographer will, at some point or other, begin shaking the camera chaotically to simulate exploding depth charges a mere stone's throw from the ship's egg-like outer shell. Unable to even approach `Das Boot's cinematic and technical expertise, `U-571' attempts to generate excitement with its action movie plotting and ambiance. Regrettably, neither the story nor the characters in this film are particularly engaging. Mathew McConaughey stars as Lt. Andrew Tyler, a naval officer who manages, through a complicated series of partly planned, partly inadvertent ircumstances, to lead a group of men on board a German u-boat, kill most of its crew and cruise around the North Atlantic in a Trojan Horse type operation, while uncovering the German codebook they have been sent to find on the ship. Unlike `Das Boot,' whose primary concern was to make its recreation of life aboard a sub as realistic and convincing as possible, `U-571' loses its way in a welter of action film histrionics, cardboard cutout characters and maudlin sentimentality. Taylor is suppose to be a second-rate, overly-sensitive officer whom the bigwigs trust so little that they refuse to assign him a boat and a command of his own - but do we doubt, that by finale time, he will have proven himself to be a leader in the true-blue military tradition? None of the characters in this film seem to differentiate themselves from one another in any way that would make us care about them. They all seem to be, essentially, a group of dressed-up actors playing at soldier a far cry from the fully fleshed-out and convincing set of characters that comprised Wolfgang Peterson's crew. Perhaps it is unfair to judge `U-571' in relation to that earlier epic work. (After all, `Das Boot' runs several hours longer than this film). Nevertheless, it is a measure of the true greatness of that incomparable German masterpiece that it literally left nothing for future films to add to the genre. It is all there in that one work complete and perfect in its artistry and form. Very few films sum up their genres as consummately as Wolfgang Peterson's `Das Boot.'
on November 16, 2000
Embarrassing for the cast, the writers, the director and to be an American. I missed the opportunity to watch this film on the big screen during the summer, I am glad I did. Perhaps I have become spoiled by the excellence and craft of other film makers, their attention to detail and the effortlessness in which they transport me into their film; never once having the thought cross my mind this was a bunch of actors standing on a sound stage reciting lines per a script. From the opening of U-571 that is all you see. Not once did I believed they were actually on a submarine, as in Das Boot or Hunt for Red October, instead the actors entered and left a huge set looking uncomfortable in their uniform costumes.
The script itself is poorly written with inappropriate emotional scenarios and inconsistencies in all the characters. A crewman's response to orders to put his dead buddy in the torpedo tube along with refuse and detritus to hopefully fool the German destroyer circling overhead into thinking they've had been hit: "Like...like garbage Lieutenant?" He asks softly, eyes distaught. Watching helplessly the day before as the rest of his crew mates were killed during a torpedo attack, screaming in agony till the waves sucked them under had done nothing to harden him to the realities of war and certainly challenging a direct order when all their lives are at risk is perfectly acceptable, especially when time is off the essence. A little hand holding is always important amongst men in a crisis.
Bad as the entire viewing was, the coup de grace for this film comes at the end, leaving a very, very bad taste in this American's mouth. When the credits roll by there is a list of ships that had captured different parts of the enigma machine through the war, going through trials and sacrifices like what had just been witnessed. Every ship began with HMS except one.
Save your money and time and avoid this film.
on June 24, 2001
What really happened in the spring of 1942? Did the Yanks really go in and take over the enigma machine? Did the Americans play any part in the battle for the atlantic?
This movie, aside the fact that nothing in the events was close to the real happenings, was a thriller. It combined the old World War 2 style of events with the gung-ho and always courageous effort of the all-muscly Americans.
It is set around the capture of the Enigma coding machine, by the Brits, in Spring- 1942, and was to be of major victory to the allied forces in the coming days. The Americans (the ONLY contributers to the war.....) decided they would twist the events and make it look like they had done everything and won us the war. All in all it was a great success, and the movie was awesome in the fact that it showed the reality of what life at war was really like 50 years ago. But it still lacked a few major facts. - The real U571 was destroyed 2months before this even happened. - The Americans weren't even in the war at the time. - The British were the courageous young lads who led the daring assault.
So just remember the facts when you watch the movie, and as amazingly cool as it seems, dont be swayed by the "facts" that this movie portrays. It is an excellent choice, and i urgwe you to watch it as soon as possible. Top class work.