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U-571: DVD

It’s 1942. German U-boats trawl the Atlantic like a deadly plague, sinking the Allied Forces with resolute ease. The Nazi victories – which the US does its damndest to cover up – are mostly due to a little piece of new technology aboard the U-boats called the "Enigma" machine. It’s a tiny encoding device that ensures messages sent back-and-forth to the Fuehrer are undecipherable to the Allies, and it’s keeping the red devils one step ahead of the good guys. Enter Lt Tyler (Matthew McConaughey), a textbook seaman whose commander (Bill Paxton) doesn’t 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.

"In 1942, a group of American sailors are sent out into the Atlantic on a mission to capture German U-boat U-571 and retrieve the Enigma coding machine on-board. It is this machine that would later help the allies win the war. When making a WWII submarine movie these days you are faced with the formidable challenge of topping Wolfgang Petersen’s Das Boot; the submarine movie to which all others are compared. However, it was not director Jonathan Mostow’s intention to create an ultra-realistic war movie. In fact during his commentary Mostow explains that what you get when you see U-571 is a 'good old fashioned, rousing patriotic American experience…'. Interestingly both Das Boot and U-571 shared the same production designer Goetz Weidner, which was no accident by the way. As we discover in the commentary, Weidner was hired specifically because of his previous experience on Das Boot.

The film is presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced. Image quality is virtually perfect and the Dolby Digital 5.1 track it is extremely dynamic and powerful, particularly during the battle sequences. All speakers are active from start to finish. U-571 was originally presented in selected cinemas with 8-channel digital surround sound so it’s safe to assume that a lot of effort has been made by the sound department.

The Spotlight On Location documentary, as well as the commentary, particularly highlight how much effort was put into maintaining authenticity and technical accuracy during the entire production. Every button, knob and lever had to be correct. The Making of… documentary outlines the design and construction of the sets and submarines needed to make U-571 as authentic as possible. Actually consisting of four separate documentaries, Breaking the Code is essentially a history lesson outlining the real missions that the movie is based upon. The first appears to be an old 1940s documentary detailing the capture of U-505 from the Germans. The second is an interview with LT. Commander David Balme who was credited for the capture of U-110 from the Germans. The third is an interview with Vice Admiral Patrick Hannifin about his experiences as submariener during the war. Hannifin was also the somewhat over-qualified technical advisor for movie. The fourth is a detailed look at the German Enigma coding machine, and why its retrieval was so important to the allies.

In the end I feel the effort put into the research and production could have been better utilised by making a grittier motion picture. None-the-less with a top class audio-visual presentation U-571 is a home cinema experience that should not be missed."
Ben Hooft

Published March 15, 2001

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U-571 (M)

CAST: Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi, Jake Weeber, David Keith and Matthew Settle

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Mostow

RUNNING TIME: 112 mins

RRP: $34.95

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Village Roadshow

DVD RELEASE: November 29, 2000

Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1

Director’s Commentary

Spotlight On Location Documentary (14 mins)

The Making of U-571 Documentary (6 mins)

Breaking the Code Documentary (28 mins)

Biographies, DVD-ROM Feature

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