U-571 (2000)

u571

“DIVE! DIVE! DIVE!”

The Scoop: 2000 PG-13, Directed by Johnathan Mostow and starring Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi and Jake Weber

Tagline: You won’t come up for air until it’s over!

Summary Capsule: Navy sub-guys board Nazi boat to steal a typewriter… or a bunch of Hitler souveneirs… or something!

PoolMan’s rating: Load the tubes, baby, and fire at will! (Which one’s Will, sir?)

PoolMan’s review: You know, it’s with a deep shame that I own up to not having seen more war movies. I suppose that shame has its roots in my friend Randy’s constant badgering, or perhaps my granddad’s role in the last World War (which makes for great storytelling), but war movies, while always seeming interesting, never really caught my attention. I suppose it may have something to do with the fact that I’m a Canuck, and most WWII movies are very American-centred (not at all unjustified). It’s hard to get too caught up in the patriotism of another country (unless it’s Canada, yay!)

U-571 thankfully leaves the flag waving behind (actually, the Nazis refer to the characters as “Allies”, not “Americans”) and instead goes straight to the heart of the matter: the second World War will likely be lost if the Allies do not learn how to break the German Enigma code, used to communicate with Hitler’s infamous U-boats. A disabled German sub presents the perfect opportunity for the Allies to seize the equipment necessary to break this code (and, as a bonus, shave Matthew McConnaughey’s head!). Our all-American crew dress up as Nazis, disguise their S-33 as a German sub, and head out to intercept.

Of course, things never go as planned in the movies, and the US sub is destroyed before they can return with their booty (hee hee, I said “booty”).  What’s a guy to do? Take over the limping Gerry sub and try to make it to Allied territory without the Nazi high command knowing their code machine’s been seized. That’s what!

Now, I’m taking this sequence of events pretty lightly, but as the film’s ending credits would indicate, this movie is a fictional dedication to actual WWII heroes who actually undertook missions to seize the Enigma. (PoolMan’s Note: Please, honour our veterans, and read the bit at the end. I was disgusted to see people walking out during the dedication credits… someone died for your freedom, you could at least remember them. Okay, sermon over.) It’s a great dedication, too. It’s dramatic without resorting to any Hollywood flashery, and tells a solid, gritty story of bravery under fire and improvisation in the midst of war.

I also really liked the fact that the Germans are portrayed as likeable characters, instead of the strange-helmeted evil henchmen we usually see in war movies. They enjoy each other’s company and seem a very cooperative crew. One even declines to shoot a surrendered boatload of Allied soldiers. Next thing you know, they won’t even be drinking blood!

There are feats of logic that will leave you dizzy, however. (One tends to wonder how the German captain lives as long as he does) Also, there is some rather excessive cases of foreshadowing that will make you cringe. (There’s a scene where the effects of deep waters on a sub hull are demonstrated on a poor defenceless egg, and I right away asked my buddy when he thought they’d go beneath the established “safe depth”.)

That being said, the intensity of U-571 had me on the edge of my seat, and I’m pretty sure it’ll have the same effect on you, too. There’s a whole lot of scenes that you find yourself being quiet, just in case you disturb the characters from their planning. Don’t miss this one in theaters if you can help it, but see it however you can.

Justin’s rating: Heil Herr Mutants!

Justin’s review: You see, the screening process to become a Mutant Reviewer used to be pretty lax in the olden days. We’d drive down to the Greyhound station, kidnap a few destitute-lookin’ folks, and chain them in front of a typewriter. This process unfortunately did not insure that our reviewers would be mentally stable, which is how we ended up with PoolMan and his “ideas” of what movies were cult. Sometimes he has a hard time identifying movies, period, but we give him leeway since he works for peanuts. Literally. So when he sent in a review for U-571, we just put it down to “PoolMan Syndrome” (PMS) and went with it.

Just kidding, PoolMan! You know we love you! Not literally! Since my good friend has already taken care of seriously reviewing this movie, it frees me up to try a new experiment, inspired by those Kevin Bacon games. Since U-571 can’t really be considered close to cult cinema, I’ve figured out ways to connect U-571 through the “six or less degrees of cult movies”. It’s cheesy, but fortunately, I can’t hear your screams. Here goes:

1. Matthew McConaughey (Lt. Andrew Tyler) was in the cult film Dazed And Confused.

2. U-571 has numbers in its title, yet isn’t a sequel; cult films that have numbers in the title and aren’t sequels include Se7en, The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across The Eighth Dimension, Death Race 2000, and Mystery Science Theater 3000.

3. Harvey Keitel (Chief) has made extensive rounds in cult cinema, including From Dusk Till Dawn, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and Taxi Driver

4. The black man makes a point to mention how unappreciated he is, thus ensuring that he will survive the movie; similar cases happen in Scream 2 and House on Haunted Hill

5. Justin went and saw this movie; he’s also seen a lot of cult movies.

Okay, so this game is not very well thought-out. It seemed much cooler while I was watching the trailers. Anyway, I do want to mention that I’m a HUGE World War 2 submarine fan. I’ve toured through a couple and used to be addicted to the great sub game Silent Service 2. It was just a huge thrill to see them use the deck cannon in this movie… that’s a first.

As a film, it’s okay; there’s not a whole lot of character development or unexpected plot twists. I’m sure you’d be screaming along with me “Why? Just shoot him in his Nazi head!” when the American boat crew goes out of their way to save the captain of the U-boat. Indiana Jones had no problem knocking off the Nazis, and neither should they.

On the plus side, this is a gorgeous film. Lots of excitement and sub-terrific fun to be had. One of my favorite shots shows the U-boat passing over the camera at 200 meters, depth charges detonating far above them like little thunderstorms. Very nice. I think there was one woman in this film… no… maybe two… stuck right in at the beginning during a party sequence. Truly man’s domain, this movie is. Hey, if you stick enough special effects in, I’ll watch any movie once. And maybe this one twice.

“Stop! Collaborate! Listen!”

Intermission!

  • Way back in the 40’s, right till today, the Americans clung to the Imperial measuring system. (you sad, desperate people)
  • The Germans are pretty nice guys!
  • It was apparently good policy in wartime to keep enemy officers in your already crippled engine room.
  • The black guy had a goatee – did ANYONE have a goatee back in WW2?
  • Yes, you heard right, this movie features Jon Bon Jovi. I didn’t know that till afterwards, and was retrospectively very pleased with his performance. Perhaps military characters are right up his alley?

Groovy Quotes:

Just The Skippers: DIVE! DIVE! DIVE!

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Das Boot
  • Crimson Tide
  • Hunt For Red October

2 comments

  1. Bad news, the sailors that took the German U-boat during WWII were actually british. Incredibly heroic mind you, but it was britain that captured the enigma device, not the U.S.. Great movie reviews and a pretty tense movie, just Washed over for american audiences.

    Sub-topic (mind the pun) Canada actually has an outstanding Army.

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