"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
Published March 15, 2001