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Universal / 117 Minutes / 2000 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: June 28, 2011
U-571 is as straightforward a piece of patriotism as they come. A World War II German submarine is disabled and an American sub is dispatched to masquerade as a German rescue sub. The mission is to steal the highly coveted Enigma code machine that makes German communications unbreakable. But before they can accomplish their mission, the American's sub is sunk, stranding our sailors onboard the German U-boat. They must carefully navigate to safety, evading both their own fleet to avoid being sunk in a German vessel, and the Nazis who are desperate to avoid the Enigma falling into enemy hands.
When the film was released in the spring of 2000, there was a spot of controversy from across the pond. The British claimed ownership of the events portrayed in U-571. Why, they wondered, were Americans so bold as to take someone else's story and retool it to fit their own red, white, and blue patriotism? Hollywood’s unashamed answer was that it did it because it could. Admittedly, the film is not historically accurate, but then again, it's Hollywood jingoistic entertainment at it's finest.
Bringing credibility to the often unbelievable and contrived plot are actors Matthew McConaughey as the driven but frustrated second in command, Jon Bon Jovi in a performance so good I actually didn't recognize him, and Harvey Keitel shockingly going against type as a character who is actually likable. Bringing it all together is second time helmer Jonathan Mostow, who previously directed the vastly underrated Kurt Russell thriller Breakdown. He again proves that he has a good grasp on creating effective suspense. Mostow went on to direct Terminator 3 with great gusto, a reasonable but not superior chapter in the saga, and has several other films in the works.
U-571 may not be deep, but it is a ton of fun if you don't mind just sitting back and enjoying the ride. If you want a more realistic and visceral World War II submarine epic, watch Wolfgang Petersen’s claustrophobic and ironic Das Boot. It’s more complex, with deeper character development and realistic psychological conflicts.