U-571

on April 21, 2000 by Wade Major
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   The recent resurgence of cinematic interest in World War II continues with "U-571," a rousing, old-fashioned submarine adventure based on actual events surrounding the capture of a German encoding device known as the Enigma. Historically, it was the English Navy who first obtained the device, thereby enabling the Allies to defeat Hitler¹s naval gauntlet in the Atlantic during the most crucial years of the war. For purposes of commercialism and patriotism, "U-571" rewrites the story in favor of the Americans, a decision that will play well with domestic audiences, but which will undoubtedly tarnish the movie¹s otherwise engaging story in the eyes of non-Yanks.

   Matthew McConaughey stars as Lt. Tyler, an ambitious young naval officer charged with leading a top-secret mission to hijack a disabled German U-boat and snatch its Enigma device. Soon after Tyler and his men take control of the so-called U-571, however, an unforeseen encounter with a German ship throws the mission into crisis, stranding them aboard the German sub and confronting them with the virtually impossible task of not only repairing the craft, but then finding a way of returning to port without raising the suspicions of the German navy.

   Conceived, co-scripted and directed by Jonathan Mostow, who first captured attention with his 1997 thriller "Breakdown," "U-571" aspires to the level of such popular ¹60s-era World War II "mission" films as "Where Eagles Dare" and "The Dirty Dozen." And for the most part, Mostow realizes those aspirations, finding just the right blend of adventure, action and gritty realism to keep audiences riveted throughout. Notwithstanding the factual liberties and some overtly contrived plotting, it¹s a film almost impossible to dislike, elevated throughout by the efforts of a first-rate cast, as well as top-notch production value and attention to detail. McConaughey, who appeared to have lost some of his leading man luster of late, returns to form here, bringing both nobility and vulnerability to an otherwise weary genre. Supporting performances are equally impressive, featuring memorable turns from both veterans like Harvey Keitel and newcomers like the superb Jack Noseworthy. Fine contributions from cinematographer Oliver Wood, editor Wayne Wahrman, composer Richard Marvin and production designers William Ladd Skinner and Götz Weidner (recruited for his "Das Boot" expertise) round out the effort, a smart, slick crowd-pleaser perfectly pitched to kick off the summer movie season. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi, Jake Weber, Matthew Settle, Erik Paladino, David Keith, Thomas Kretschmann, Thomas Guiry, T.C. Carson and Jack Noseworthy. Directed by Jonathan Mostow. Written by Jonathan Mostow and Sam Montgomery and David Ayer. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis and Martha De Laurentiis. A Universal release. Adventure. Rated PG-13 for war violence. Running time: 116 min

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