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U-571

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton
Director: Jonathan Mostow
Genre: Action
Year: 2000
Rating: 2 / 5

Das Boot may be considered the true, pioneering film for fans of submarine warfare, but my first introduction was 1990's The Hunt for Red October, easily the best film adaptation of a Tom Clancy novel. Five years later, director Tony Scott brought us Crimson Tide, the first post-Cold War submarine film that truly addressed the state of modern conflict. Both of these are harrowing, edge-of-your-seat thrillers, and while U-571, the latest sub movie to hit theatres, has some fine moments, it fails to live up to its predecessors' legacy. Director Jonathan Mostow's tale is certainly entertaining, at least for the first half of the film, but it is eventually undone by insufficient excitement and some very wooden acting.

The S-33, captained by Lieutenant Commander Mike Dahlgren (Bill Paxton), is docked for some much-needed shore leave. Unfortunately, unexpected circumstances force the American submarine back out to sea. United States intelligence has intercepted what appears to be a distress signal from the U-571, a German submarine that is marooned in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. After a run-in with an Allied destroyer left the sub crippled and disabled, the Germans called for assistance using their top secret Enigma machine. It is this machine, which allows the German military to communicate amongst themselves without Allied knowledge, that has sparked the interest of the United States Navy.

Lieutenant Andrew Tyler (Matthew McConaughey) is the commanding officer on the S-33, and it is his job to ready the men for their rendezvous with the wounded German sub. The plan is to approach the U-571 while disguised as a German sub, capture the Germans and the Enigma machine, and scuttle the boat. Not only must the Americans retrieve the Enigma machine, but they must do so without the Germans being aware. Discovery of the theft would result in a change in German security, thus making the whole mission useless. A simple enough plan, until, that is, anther German submarine comes upon the S-33 while it is raiding the U-571.

Jonathan Mostow's movie has been praised in some circles for its fairly accurate depiction of submarine life, particularly with respect to the cramped quarters, the leaky boats, and the general sense of claustrophobia. While this is certainly a solid point in the film's favor, U-571 suffers from some extremely stiff performances from its cardboard crew. Many are reluctant to classify Bill Paxton as a true "actor," and his performance here only further vindicates that stance. Matthew McConaughey is equally troubling, delivering lines that alternate between melodramatic and overly sappy. Harvey Keitel does not do himself any great disservice, but he is generally wasted amidst the crew of lightweights. This leaves the film U-571 floundering without direction, much like the boat whose story it tells.

Cast:
Matthew McConaughey..........Lt. Tyler
Bill Paxton..........Lt. Cmdr. Dahlgren
Harvey Keitel..........Chief Klough
Jon Bon Jovi..........Lt. Emmett

Certification: Rated PG-13 for violence.
Running Time: 116 minutes.

Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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[critics]