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Rated [PG-13]
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel and Jon Bon Jovi
Screenplay and Directed by Jonathan Mostow

Cranky's Review. Paul Fischer's review here. Links below for StarTalk

IN SHORT: Dynamite.

Back in the days of the "good war" the German Nazi war machine had an unbreakable code generated by a device code named ENIGMA. Over the course of about three years, Allied Forces managed to piece together parts of the code, culminating with the capture of a complete machine in 1944. Having broken the code, Allied Command was forced to watch as the other side continued to sink our ships, for getting word to those ships would tip the Germans to the fact that we knew what they were thinking. That's a story for another day, unlike the compressed story told by writer/director Jonathan Mostow in U-571, is a superb thriller and a great ride, once things in the story go from bad to worse.

And while we move on to telling you all that we'll tell you, this here's as good a place as any to plug our StarTalk one-on-one interviews with the film's stars Matthew McConaughey and Jon Bon Jovi, all conducted by our LA correspondent, Paul Fischer. OK, back to the war . . .

Mostow sets his story in the Spring of 1942, with the US fresh into the war and still running World War I era subs like the S-33, which will never be captained by Lt. Andrew Tyler (Matthew McConaughey) who has been passed over for promotion. Tyler's hopes have been shot down by his Lt. Commander Mike Dahlgren (Bill Paxton) and, before he can request transfer to another boat, the S-33 ships out on a mission of utmost secrecy and importance. It seems that Intelligence has tracked radio signals from a floundering Nazi sub (and how that happened starts this story in high gear) in the mid-Atlantic. The Germans have dispatched a rescue sub; The S-33's mission is to get there first, waylay the crew and steal the Enigma coding machine and code books. Best estimate is that our side can get there ten hours before their side.

Nope. Nothing I've written spills anything that isn't in the trailer or teevee spot, so don't complain. Let's just say that the nine Americans who find themselves in control of a crippled, leaky U-boat must fight the impossible fight against the full strength of a healthy Nazi Navy, determined to send that Enigma machine to the depths. Among the American crew (some will live and some won't) are Chief Klough (Harvey Keitel in a low key, dead on dramatic performance), Lt. Peter Emmett (Jon Bon Jovi), crewmen Mazzola (Erik Palladino) Wentz (Jack Noseworthy) and mess steward Eddie (T.C. Carson) and Special Ops officers Lt. Hirsch (Jake Weber) and Major Coonan (David Keith). German officer Kapitanlieutenant Wassner (Thomas Kretschmann), a captive below decks plays a key role as well.

We were taught in school of the "can do" effort of wartime America, recovering from the almost complete destruction of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, and Mostow's script, filled with depth charge and torpedo battles and the decreasing odds for survival of our heroes, exploits that spirit to the letter. His direction exploits the claustrophobic conditions of the ship and the special effects run the gamut from bone shaking to downright beautiful. I never thought I'd write that about a depth charge going off, but you'll know the scene when you see it.

U-571 is a great popcorn flick, and while I usually use that term in a deprecating fashion, I don't now. Outside of a short pause at the beginning of the flick, catch your breath - you'll need it, U-571 doesn't stop. Not in its action, not to slow down and detail what happened to the crewmen that don't make it. Put the popcorn hand on autopilot and have a good time.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to U-571, he would have paid...


Great flick. Great time in the dark. No argument.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.