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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: U-571

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Harvey Keitel
Director: Jonathan Mostow
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 118 Minutes
Release Date: April 2000
Genres: Action, War

*Also starring: David Keith, Jake Weber, Thomas Kretschmann, Jack Noseworthy, T.C. Carson, Jon Bon Jovi, Bill Paxton

Review by Greg King
3 stars out of 4

Das Boot without the subtitles? All of the usual clichés of the wartime submarine drama are trotted out one more time in this big budget World War Two adventure from Jonathan Mostow (whose last film was the Kurt Russell actioner Breakdown). The surfeit of clichés however doesn't diminish the excitement nor the claustrophobic suspense that holds the audience's attention for the duration. By 1942 Hitler's submarines were winning the war in the Atlantic, due mainly to their unbreakable Enigma code. The Allies were desperate to get their hands on the top secret code and thus turn the tide of war. When a German submarine lies crippled in the Atlantic, the US Navy seizes its chance. Under the command of Bill Paxton and a gung-ho marine (David Keith), a hastily assembled mission is sent to board her, retrieve the German code machine and books, and scuttle the boat.

When the American's own submarine is destroyed by a German U-boat, the surviving members of the crew commandeer the crippled U-boat. They find themselves desperately trying to repair the broken down U571 and steer her across a hostile ocean to safety in England. Brash young commander Tyler (Matthew McConaughey) finds himself in charge, trying to whip his small, inexperienced young crew into shape under adverse conditions during the heat of battle. Unfortunately, there are a number of glitches in the film's plotting, but Mostow's pacy and ruthlessly efficient direction manages to gloss over most of them until the curtain closes. Many may also object to the excessive jingoism, in which Mostow suggests that the heroic efforts of American soldiers and sailors were largely responsible for the capture of vital German code books.

As with many war movies, the characters here are little more than ciphers that serve the plot, and the audience finds it hard to identify with them. Mostow has assembled a strong cast, although many of the big names are killed off within the first 45 minutes. Performers of the calibre of McConaughey and Harvey Keitel do what they can with their essentially one dimensional characters.

However, the film is certainly impressive in its staging of the underwater battle scenes, and Mostow brings plenty of tension to the film. U571 deliberately resembles Wolfgang Petersen's classic tale of war and heroism in both look and feel, although the potent antiwar message is missing here. Production designer Gotz Weidner even worked on Das Boot. The special effects and production design are superb, and enhance the claustrophobic atmosphere.

Copyright © 2000 Greg King

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