U-571 sank its chance to be a cool submarine movie–WW2 variety, launching yet more modern era frustration for we old fogey war movie vets who hope for a little more than advanced fireworks when history—the kind that involved our parents generation—is doled out to lure us back to yesteryear’s Big Cause, the one fight almost everyone can agree was worth it.
During the Battle of the Atlantic, a damaged German U-boat is boarded and captured by American sailors, there to seize not the sub but the Enigma coding machine it carries. Taking over the enemy ship is one thing, staying alive in it is another. Bring on the clashing, camaraderie and combat.
Jonathan Mostow, who did a good job torquing Kurt Russell in Breakdown, was assigned to steer this as director, and he does well enough in that capacity, but the script he co-wrote with Sam Montgomery and David Ayer has more holes in it than the Bismarck. Since it’s fiction, using history as a vehicle for adventure excitement, likelihood is almost always a casualty. Fact-smack: it was the British Royal Navy who were responsible for 13 of the 15 times code books and machines were captured during the war. So understandable umbrage came from the other side of the ocean, ticked that once again, American film-makers tipped scales to favor audiences in the US (and like it or not, internationally) by having Yanks save the day (and the machine). In this case, Matthew McConaughey got skipper duty, backed by Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel and Jon Bon Jovi (rock the home front), with Thomas Kretschmann as their main German opposite number. *
Richard Marvin’s surging-sappy music score produces the sort of empty noise that, rather than eulogize past valor, has the effect of trivializing it. In the See How Well They Can Blow Stuff Up Department, the impressive special effects would be the envy of those old warhorses like Destination Tokyo, but in keeping with the modern mania for mayhem, the depth charge attacks get so absurdly overdone that, even though they look better, they’re still about as logic wobbly as those from the 40s.
It won an Oscar for the Sound Editing of all those underwater ka-booms, and a nomination for plain old Sound. Produced for $62,000,000, it berthed 28th in 2000, with a gross tonnage score of $127,000,000.
With David Keith, Jake Weber, Tom Guiry and T.C. Carson. Carson’s character is another script attack on reality: his African-American sailor, riffing out insubordination, may feel good to the factually uninformed, but it’s just pure p.c. revisionist nonsense. 116 minutes.
* We honestly sympathize with complaints from Brit naval officers and our steadfast ally’s patriotic, history-minded citizens tea tempest over this bogus movie ripping off their glory. But the sputtering went a rudder too far when Prime Minister Tony Blair chimed in, given his Iraq War poodle act of craven Bushbutt-kissing.