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A U.S. Navy Captain and his crew are just beginning to enjoy 48 hours of leave when they receive word to immediately return to duty. On a top-secret assignment, they must disguise themselves as Nazis and infiltrate a severely damaged Nazi U-boat. Once on board, they are to steal the Nazi's top-secret decoding device and sink the sub before the Germans catch on to what's really happening. Their mission is more dangerous and frightening than anything they could have ever imagined, but one which has the power to turn the tide of battle. "U-571" is exciting!" says Newsweek. Filled with incredible explosions, raging fires and speeding torpedoes, this suspense-filled action-packed film sets a new standard for high impact entertainment and features an impressive all-star cast.
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As for the story? Bravo!! It is pure genius to take the premise of a factual story that did happen in history but change it around to make it completely new and interesting for the audience. Even if you know the factual story this movie is loosely based on you will not be disappointed. There are so many surprise twists and turns to keep you til the very end. The characters themselves are also not "cardboard cutouts". Each character is introduced in such a way that you learn their backstory as you get to know them so it doesn't seem forced. And even though I tried, I couldn't compare any of these characters to ones I knew in history or in other U-Boat movies.
Writing character development in such a way is so nice when it is done right, as it is done in this movie. You then get to follow those characters through their development and maturing process which makes you care about them even more. Nothing makes a movie better than when you forget the people on screen are actors and actually care about what is going to happen to their characters.
Now, most people give this a lower rating becasue it is not historically correct. And it is the true the British were the major players in capturing the Enigma machine; and credit is given at the end. But hey....this is entertainment. Not a documentary. People forget what the are rating. I do not see people lowering their rating on "Kelly Hero's", becasue it is not factual........It is entertainment, and good entertainment.
So if you want a very enjoyable W.W. II Submarine film filled with suspense and tension watch "Das Boot" or "U-571". Both are good. (and preferred in that order)
The movie begins, fittingly enough, in the German submarine after which the movie is named, and the Germans have just finished bombing an American ship. Soon after, they are set upon by a destroyer, which depth-charges the fragile vessel and leaves it crippled and in need of repairs. They send a call our for help, which is found by the Americans. This provides them with the opportunity to crack the secret code the Germans have been using by boarding the damaged vessel under the guise of German soldiers and stealing the Enigma, which houses the codes.
The beginning of the movie allows us to get to know our American characters, with whom we will be spending a great deal of time during the movie. We are introduced to Captain Andrew Tyler, who has just found out that he did not receive the position of captain as he had hoped. His commander, Lieutenant Commander Mike Dahlgren, feels he does not have what it takes to be a captain at this point, and that his emotional connection to his shipmates would prevent him from putting them in situations of potential danger.
Soon, our men are on their sub, heading out to sea, where they encounter the German submarine, take the crew hostage, and swipe the Enigma and code book to bring back to the attention of the U.S. Armed Forces. However, the German sub that responded to their call for help destroys the American sub, killing the German hostages and some Americans, leaving the rest of the crew on the German sub with Tyler as their captain. As their special ops mission turns into a race for survival, Tyler must make the right decisions in order to keep his crew alive and ship afloat as they near hostile waters on their way to safety.
The plot of the story follows a pretty basic pattern that is intensified by the suspense of the action sequences and the way in which Mostow works his magic with the camera. I found myself guessing what was going to happen in certain scenes of the movie, mainly because after seeing the trailer, I knew there was more that had to happen than just allowing the sub to sink and the Germans to win. And as much as the story does for its characters and their will to survive, I knew that the script would not shortchange them in the long run. This really doesn't hinder the story, though; it still has a lot to offer.
Mostow has done a masterful job in creating an atmosphere that is tightly cramped and perilous all at the same time. The lighting used for the insides of the sub is merely the lights actually shown, not offscreen, giving it an authentic and real feel. The crew finds themselves huddled tightly together at times during sequences in which depth charges are deployed to harm the ship, which adds to the sense of small space while also keeping us at bay with the question of whether or not the vessel will make it through the treachery of the explosions. The depth charges provide the most ominous threat to the vessel, which is carried out on film in a most intense manner. The first set of explosions takes place outside of the vessel, where we can see everything that's going on, while the second set keeps us inside the sub so that all we can do is hold our breath with the crew and wait for the explosions to end.
The fact that the movie can set up this kind of connection is a testament to its brilliance. Mostow is able to bring us into the movie with the characters, giving us bird's-eye views of the action as well as taking us right into the middle of it. Either way, the effect is truly awesome, showing us a different kind of warfare that can be just as intense and terrifying as hand-to-hand and firearm combat on land. When the movie was over, I felt jolted and out of breath; the movie simply delivers the goods.
The visual and sound effects also help to bring us into the movie's rich canvas as well. Miniatures and life-size vessels were used in the filming of the actual submarine, and while the effects that surround it may be digitized, it helps to have something that is real to harness the look and acuity of the shot. The sound design and use of the elements available is tremendous and pleasing, with a low bass frequency playing pretty much throughout the entire movie to create a sense of tension. This is one of those big, loud effects movies that, even if you don't care for the story, will please on its visuals and sound alone.
Casting is an important factor in bringing out the emotion and depth, and this one, an all-star ensemble, does just that. Matthew McConaughey is the ambitious Lieutenant Andrew Tyler, who is the strongest of the characters. He is portrayed as earnest in his endeavors to save his crew, while keeping the movie from degenerating into a blatant effects show. Harvey Keitel is Chief Klough, a pivotal character who advises and aides Tyler in some pretty tight situations. He keeps Tyler from losing his cool, which is important for the movie. Bill Paxton plays Lieutenant Dahlgren, and while his character has little screen time, he does well in keeping us informed of the events at hand. Jake Weber is a convincing Lieutenant Hirsch, who knows everything about the mission and plays his character with integrity and intelligence.
One of the better war films to come out of Hollywood, "U-571" follows an intense and gripping storyline that delivers the goods to even those who don't follow the war film trend. Under the direction of Jonathon Mostow, who also directed the thriller "Breakdown," the film contains a stellar cast that knows what it's doing and superb visual and sound effects that add to the atmosphere of suspense.