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U-571

SYNOPSIS:
Itís 1942. German U-boats trawl the Atlantic like a deadly plague, sinking the Allied Forces with resolute ease. The Nazi victories Ė which the US does its damndest to cover up Ė are mostly due to a little piece of new technology aboard the U-boats called the "Enigma" machine. Itís a tiny encoding device that ensures messages sent back-and-forth to the Fuehrer are undecipherable to the Allies, and itís keeping the red devils one step ahead of the good guys. Enter Lt Tyler (Matthew McConaughey), a textbook seaman whose commander (Bill Paxton) doesnít think he has what it takes to captain a sub of his own. When a top secret mission is launched to capture an Enigma from a kaput U-boat, Tyler soon finds himself not just in command, but commandeering the decrepit U-boat itself, sinking a Nazi destroyer, and ordering one or two of his own men to their deaths.

"U-571 is inspired by three real life events; the capturing of an Enigma machine from U-110 by the Royal British Navy in 1941; Britainís seizure of a short weather Enigma cipher from U-559 in 1942; and the capture of U-505 by the US Navy in 1944. I guess one-from-three US triumphs is enough for them to make a movie - and make themselves the heroes. Writer/director Jonathan Mostow (Breakdown) thought those events would make a great war film. Iím sure they would Ė in someone elseís hands. There are one-dimensional characters, as McConaughey has never been so blandly heroic, and Harvey Keitel has never been so second fiddle. There are the token depth charges, the rusty old sub going deeper than itís supposed to (didnít we see that in Down Periscope?) and the ingenious captainís tactics that win the day. And while US bravado is still present, itís toned down and given a conventional narrative of ordinary young men thrown into extraordinary situations. Submarine movies are a well-worn subgenre (pardon the pun) of the war movie. Thereís not a lot more to show that audiences havenít already seen. As well as the flops, we already have the greats, like The Poseidon Adventure, Das Boot, The Hunt for Red October, Ice Station Zebra, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. U-571 does sport a few mildly tense and original moments. It is good to see a change from the computerized subs of late (Crimson Tide), to a WW1 German U-boat, and see the Yanks battle to decipher the foreign gauges and gadgets. Paxton gives a strong Ė though brief Ė performance as the veteran-cum-victim. Nevertheless, the young crew here are all one-dimensional stereotypes. Weíd hardly care if they were crushed like spam-in-a-can. However being inspired by real events, U-571 begs for credibility when everything goes so right for the embattled U-boat. They capture the sub, re-ignite battery power, manoeuvre to incredible depths, plug pressure leaks, dodge depth charges, and ignite a huge Nazi destroyer with one remaining torpedo. Buy a lotto ticket! Give me Sean Conneryís crusty Captain Ramius and his Red October any day."
Shannon J. Harvey

"Boysí own adventures donít come much better than this. Full of testosterone and a "death or glory" sensibility, U-571 is a rollicking ride peppered with excitement. However, the film comes across more as propaganda or at least flag-waving patriotism than a serious contemplation on war. Director Jonathon Mostow doesnít hold back on the homage; referencing a whole range of other (mostly better) films like Destination Tokyo, Lifeboat and, most obviously, Das Boot. But for all its derivation and jingoism, U-571 is tightly directed and delivers some brilliantly executed war scenes. One in particular (no spoiler) had the audience gasping. Oliver Woodsí cinematography is the real star of the film, providing stunning wide-screen shots of the action above and below the water. The reproduction of the vessels involved is also wonderful; even though at times there are some fairly obvious computer generated effects. To its credit, the film is remarkably realistic including having the Germans actually speak German, not badly accented English. Matthew McConaughey carries off the role of Tyler with strength, although I found him a little lacking in the charisma department. No such problems though for Keitel who runs rings around the rest of the cast; while Bill Paxton does his usual Bill Paxton (think Apollo 13) as Captain Dahlgren. While there have been better war films over the years, U-571 is a stirring and at times exhilarating adventure."
David Edwards

"Eschewing the probing psychological complexity of Wolfgang Petersen's gripping 1981 submarine epic Das Boot, U-571 is a no nonsense, gung ho action adventure whose resolute conventionality will force disappointed adrenalin junkies to look elsewhere for their fix. From its opening sequence featuring a dramatic encounter between the eponymous U-boat and a British destroyer to the period-perfectly attired cast and an ocean sunset fade-out, the film is a triumph of impressive design over narrative substance. According to the production notes, director Jonathan Mostow (who, with co-writer Sam Montgomery, turned 1997's Breakdown into the white-knuckle thriller of the year) spent a lot of time scouring libraries and museums around the world searching for the necessary information that would give his story some factual grounding. After watching the film, one is left with the distinct impression that Mostow's research also must have involved him viewing the odd submarine movie as well. Not some of the better ones like Run Silent, Run Deep, The Enemy Below or even Das Boot, of course, but stock standard stuff like We Dive At Dawn or Ice Station Zebra. That said, it should be remembered that often even the most over-exposed formula is capable of surprise, and insofar as this film lives at all it is in the staging of the many frenzied action set pieces within the cramped, claustrophobic quarters of the sub itself. Deploying a soundtrack conveying horror and panic in equal doses, these scenes induce a level of excitement entirely commensurate with the film's formidable special effects budget, and help make for a diverting two hours. But given the inherent intrigue surrounding the Allies' efforts to break the Enigma code, U-571 could have and should have been so much better."
Leo Cameron

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

U571 (M)
(US)

CAST: Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi, Jake Weber, Erik Palladino

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Mostow

PRODUCER: Dino De Laurentiis, Martha De Laurentiis

SCRIPT: Jonathan Mostow, Sam Montgomery, David Ayer

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Oliver Wood

EDITOR: Wayne Wahrman

MUSIC: Richard Marvin

PRODUCTION DESIGN: William Ladd Skinner, GŲtz Weidner

RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 20, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE DATE: November 30, 2000







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