The History Place - Movie Review


By Fred Harvey
The History Place

This is a fast moving action-packed war drama that will answer the question, once and for all, what's it really like to be depth-charged while you're inside a submarine.

U-571, written and directed by Jonathan Mostow, and produced by the legendary Dino De Laurentiis, provides terrific entertainment, especially if you see the film in one of the new state-of-the-art movie theaters with a chest-thumping sound system. There's lots of big explosions.

The World War II film centers around U.S. efforts to capture a top-secret German enciphering machine, known as Enigma. The complex typewriter-like machines were carried on submarines to encode radio messages. Without an Enigma machine, the Allies had much difficulty tracking the Wolf Packs of German U-Boats that decimated Allied shipping lanes in the North Atlantic from 1940-43. The Allies had to rely instead on long-range airplane patrols over enormous ocean distances.

The film stars Matthew McConaughey as Lt. Andrew Tyler, a chronically indecisive young man with ambitions to skipper his own submarine. After being passed over for promotion, Tyler and the crew of S-33, a leaky old World War I sub, are assigned to intercept German sub U-571, which is known to be carrying an Enigma machine.

The story is fictional and does not pretend to represent an actual historical event. Enigmas were indeed captured but under different circumstances. Mostow, to his credit, did a lot of personal research into the topic, brought in World War II veterans, and thus provides us with an accurate portrayal of combat in a World War II sub.

U-571 differs from classic World War II sub movies such as Up Periscope and Das Boot in that there is much less quiet time. Those films have lots of intense quiet moments focusing on the relationships of men under great emotional (and sea) pressure. U-571 has just enough of the 'men-under-pressure' theme to satisfy fans of the classics, plus a lot of explosive plot twists that will keep you guessing and as to what's next. The time flew by while watching this film.

Another strong point is the attention paid to Lt. Tyler's problem with making combat decisions. The film neatly touches upon the point that life and death decisions are thrust without warning upon everyone involved in war. The officer in command decides who will live and who may die. Men under his command decide whether or not to go the extra mile and take out the machine gun nest (or turn off the valve in this case). In that way, the film shows how ordinary people do extraordinary things in wartime, especially that generation, now passing before our eyes, that fought in World War II. This is the probably the post-Saving Private Ryan impact on war films we are witnessing and it's a good thing.

Rated PG-13 for war violence.

U-571 - Official Website
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