Reviewed by: Seth T. Hahne
|Featuring||Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bon Jovi, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, David Keith|
|Producer||Dino De Laurentiis, Martha De Laurentiis|
“Heroes are ordinary men who do extraordinary things in extraodinary times.”
Though derivative of “Das Boot” (Wolfgang Peterson’s 1981 submarine-flick-to-end-all-submarine-flicks), “U-571” is an admirable update to a genre that hasn’t seen strong American exhibition since perhaps 1958’s “Run Silent Run Deep” and will likely be the first high-grade submarine film most American audiences will ever have the pleasure of seeing (since “Das Boot” is a German film). Though not as claustrophobic as its foreign predecessor, “U-571” does bring home a modicum of the deep-sea tension upon which such films (and especially those circa WWII) are generally themed—complete with engine problems, depth charges, the pressure-weakened hull, and the ubiquitous (but alarming all the same!) radar pings.
“U-571” tells the more fiction-than-fact story of some undersea sailors (with an eye toward stepping on Goosesteppers) who inadvertently take command of a German U-boat (hence the film’s title) while attempting to steal a Nazi coding device: Enigma. As often occurs in submarine fare, things go awry. And awry. And further awry. And further awry still.
“U-571” does come out ahead of its German predecessor in a couple of categories. The special effects are, well, affecting; especially good are the sea-battle fireworks at the climax—on this count, I highly recommend a large screen with a great sound-system. Also relieving was the films length. At a brisk 1:56, “U-571” never has time to drag (on my fourth viewing, “Das Boot”’s 3:28 became quite daunting). Also of note are some familiar-though-skin-headed faces: Matthew McConaughey, Harvey Keitel, Bill Paxton, and Jon Bon Jovi all don their best sailing togs for this adventure—and do a fine job I might add.
As far as moral content, like most war movies, there is violence, but most of the results of gunplay occur off-screen and the explosions tend toward antiseptic. There is some mild profanity, but remembering that these are sailors; I think we may have gotten off quite easy. And for the coup de gras, Harvey Keitel DOES keep his pants on! This fact alone could have merited the $8.50 I spent at the ticket window.