U-571 (2000) starring Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi, Jake Weber, Erik Palladino, Matthew Settle, David Keith directed by Jonathan Mostow Movie Review

U-571 (2000)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Matthew McConaughey in U-571 (2000)

We Dive Again

When the German U-boat "U-571" is hit and immobilized by an Allied destroyer the US Navy come up with a plan to masquerade one of their subs as a German U-boat and have a team of men board the "U-571" in order to capture the important Enigma Coding machine. But whilst the men lead by Lieutenant Tyler (Matthew McConaughey) and Lieutenant Commander Dahlgren (Bill Paxton) board the U-571 their submarine is destroyed by another German sub. With no where to go Tyler plans to guide the damaged U-571 to English waters but comes under attack from a nearby German destroyer which becomes aware that all is not right and needs to prevent the sub and the Enigma machine from getting into the Allies hands.

Let me get a gripe out of the way with first as whilst "U-571" is a work of fiction the fact we have a story featuring Americans capturing the Enigma machine first is annoying as the Americans weren't even in the war when the British did this and it is the sort of thing which can mislead those who like to think America won the war. Anyway beyond that gripe "U-571" is a competent submarine movie but one which due to the limitations of submarine movies ends up feeling familiar to the point it almost feels like it has been built purely out of cliches.

Bill Paxton in U-571 (2000)

As such whilst we are served up this fictitious story of a stricken U-boat and the heroics of a group of US Navy seamen who board it to capture the Enigma machine what we get is familiarity. That starts with the conflict between Tyler and Dahlgren with Tyler feeling that Dahlgren has intentionally held him back and blocked his promotion leading to a certain amount of animosity between them. And when we are aboard the stricken submarine we get the familiar elements from the danger of diving to deep as the creaking hull might not hold to the firing out of oil and belongings to try and dupe the German destroyer into thinking they are sunk. Basically many of the moments of drama are the same ones which have filled movies about submarines ever since the first one was made.

But whilst the moments of drama and conflict as well as to be honest the characters which fill "U-571" are familiar and little more than cliches director Jonathan Mostow keeps things ticking over and does a nice job of making the most of the moments of drama to create edge of your seat tension and atmosphere. Again it is familiar but it is the fact that "U-571" is exciting which stops it from being a pointless attempt to update the war movies of the 50s and 60s when there were a lot more of these submarine movies.

As for the acting well due to the writing it comes under the term of being full on American bravado with larger than life characters who all have a bit of the John Wayne Yippee ki-yay about them. In terms of entertainment they work but it doesn't make them the most authentic characters to ever board a submarine during a WWII submarine movie.

What this all boils down to is that "U-571" is little more than a 2000 update on the submarine movies which came during the 50s and 60s, obviously benefiting from improved cinema technology when it come to the action side of things. But it does mean that what we get is a lot of submarine movie cliches from conflicts between officers to near misses and moments of tension when it comes to whether or not a submarine will be crushed under the pressure of water. And as such if you are a fan or have watched those older submarine movies this modern attempt doesn't really bring anything new to the mix.