Also reviewed: Maybe Baby Also recommended

From the July 2000
Film Review

Film Review Hotline
3 Stars; a 'Good' Rating

Matthew McConaughey interviewed in this issue

STARS: Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi, Jake Weber, David Keith
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Mostow
SCREENPLAY: Jonathan Mostow, Sam Montgomery and David Ayer
CERTIFICATE: 12 DISTRIBUTOR and Picture copyright: Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 1hrs 56mins

All hands on deck? Surely some mistake in U-571
The Enigma variation

There are some things you ought to be aware of before seeing U-571. A story of American derring-do that stresses its fidelity to the smallest detail (David Ayer, a former employee of the US Navy, fine-tuned the minutiae), U-571 gamely takes a moment of British glory and hands it over to the Yanks.

Of course, the producers have covered their tracks somewhat by dedicating the movie to “the bravery of the Allied soldiers and officers who risked their lives capturing Enigma.” In addition, the production notes reveal that “the film is inspired by a composite of events…and is intended as a memorial to all those who served.”

Nevertheless, such semantic pussy-footing is but an imperceptible pat on the British back. The U-571 in question is a German U-boat that, in the spring of 1942, is disabled by depth charges and left awaiting rescue by the home team. In possession of a top-secret coding device – the ‘Enigma’ machine – that has helped to sink over a thousand Allied ships, the crippled craft proves an invaluable asset to the US Navy. And so, in a race against time, the Yanks launch a submarine disguised as a U-boat.

The idea is that the men on board can approach the enemy craft unheeded, overcome the crew, seize the transmitter, sink the ship and return to the US without the enemy’s know-ledge. However, no sooner have they boarded the U-571 than the American’s own sub is sunk by a direct hit and all hell breaks loose.

Though boasting a noteworthy cast and a budget of $90 million, U-571 starts badly. The introduction of so many characters is very confusing, the set-up equally so. The dialogue is often unintelligible and far too much attention is paid to technical detail at the expense of character development. Then, halfway through, Jonathan Mostow (who previously directed the gripping Breakdown) starts to pile on the tension.

Milking every cliché of the submarine genre – creaking hull, exploding leaks, hushed anticipation of the next depth charge – Mostow confirms his status as a master of suspense. But U-571 falls far short of such tin fish classics as The Enemy Below, Run Silent Run Deep and Das Boot.

James Cameron-Wilson

Read our massive reviews section in this month's Film Review
Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction.

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Also reviewed online this month:
4 Stars
MAYBE BABY • released June 2


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Eye of the Beholder • June 9
The House of Mirth • June 16
28 Days rescheduled from MayJune 16
Not One LessJune 23
Relative Values • June 23
Beyond the Mat • June 30

3 Stars (a Good rating)
Selected 'good' films from a month with over 30 releases... but no five-star films!
June 2 • The Ninth Gate

June 16 • Frequency
June 9 • Return To Me
June 9
Sweet and Lowdown