directed by Jonathan Mostow
(MCA/Universal, 2000)

There must be a very special kind of terror felt by the men who served in military submarines. U-571 demonstrates both the fear and the amazing courage they needed to do their jobs during the tumultuous days of World War II.

Both American and German crews are shown living and breathing inside those fragile metal shells beneath tons of seawater and under the constant threat of enemy torpedoes and depth charges. The movie is about a German submarine, U-571, which is disabled at sea by an Allied destroyer. The Americans dispatch a sub of their own to intercept U-571 before the Germans reach it -- their objective is the Enigma, a German encryption device which could help the Allies to win the war.

But the German rescuers arrive, too, and the American sub goes down with the captured U-571 crew and the majority of their American captors. Those left must try to escape with the Enigma in the damaged enemy sub without letting the Germans know they have it, and the German destroyer hard on their heels isn't making that very easy.

There are some historical inaccuracies dogging this film -- for instance, the British captured the first Enigma, not the Americans, and the German destroyer presence in the Atlantic in 1942 was fairly limited -- but so far as atmosphere is concerned, particularly the claustrophobic feeling of submarine service and the heroism of the men involved, U-571 is a winner. Matthew McConaughey leads the cast as Lt. Andrew Tyler, who is thrust into command after his superior officer, Lt. Cmdr. Mike Dahlgren (Bill Paxton), is killed. Providing tactical and moral support is the loyal Chief Klough (Harvey Keitel) and a crew including performances by Jon Bon Jovi, Jake Weber, Jack Noseworthy, Tom Guiry and Will Estes.

U-571 is a tension-filled war story which keeps you on the edge of your seat and guessing to the very end.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 30 June 2001

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