There are enough submarine movies that it is almost a genre unto itself. From Das Boot, The Hunt for Red October and Run Silent, Run Deep to Crimson Tide and Down Periscope (well, maybe not), the public transfixes itself with stories of sweaty men trapped in a confined area going up against humongous odds and usually triumphing. U-571 is no different, and falls smack into the middle. There are sweaty men, there is a submarine, and there are humongous odds. And don't forget the necessary scenes of everyone whispering and looking up while trying to listen for sonar pings and/or depth charges. The movie takes it cues from real events which occurred before the United States entered World War II. The British were responsible for capturing an Enigma code device, a typewriter-like object the Germans used to encode their messages. In U-571, it is a United States sub accomplishes it. Please note the vaguely worded dedication at the end of the movie, meant to appease anyone for whom historical accuracy is a nicety (note it doesn't really work).

Lt. Andrew Tyler (everyone's favorite naked pot-smoking bongo playing racist Matthew McConaughey, Contact, Amistad) is the executive officer of an S-33 submarine. He is somewhat bitter after being passed over for his own command. Tyler learns that his ship is to set off on a covert mission whose goal is to obtain an Enigma. The Enigma is on a disabled German U-boat, and submarine captain Mike Dahlgreen (Bill Paxton, Titanic, Mighty Joe Young) must reach the U-boat before a German resupply ship does. Lt. Hirsch (Jake Weber, Pushing Tin, Dangerous Beauty) is now in charge of the operation. Hirsch will lead a team of men onto a disable German U-boat, secure the Enigma, and then scuttle the ship. While on the U-boat, the German resupply ship torpedoes the S-33, effectively stranding Tyler and crew on the U-571. Now, Tyler must take command and figure out a way to elude the Germans and return home on a disabled ship. His main supporter is Chief Klough (Harvey Keitel, Three Seasons, Holy Smoke), a veteran submariner. The rest of Tyler's crew is young and inexperienced, and most importantly, expendable. Jon Bon Jovi (Row Your Boat), David Keith (Golddiggers), Matthew Settle (I Still Know What You Did Last Summer), Jake Noseworthy (Idle Hands), token black man T.C. Carson (Relax...It's Just Sex) and Eric Palladino (playing the same role as he does on NBC's ER) are all extraneous extras who either die or are on screen for such a small amount of time that they don't matter.

Director Jonthan Mostow (Breakdown), Sam Montgomery, and David Ayer's story offers little to no characterization. Everyone is one-dimensional and goes through the obvious changes that make them better people. Dahlgreen confides to Tyler at the beginning that the reason he did not receive a commission was that he was not capable of making sacrificing his men for the greater good. What will happen as U-571 goes on? No real acting is required, since everyone is too busy running around the sub or being thrown about to sit still and speak. When they do, the dialogue verges on the laughable. There is never any real doubt as to whether or not the Allies will get the Enigma. It's just a matter of waiting for the movie to end. Mostow does deserve credit for creating an extremely tense atmosphere and surprisingly enjoyable film. Aside from starting slow, U-571 goes through the motions at a pleasant clip, with some dazzling special effects along the way. The prerequisite scenes of submarines passing merrily by underwater are nothing spectacular, but the depth charge explosions are. Mostow also manages to keep the tension level high during an extended game of cat-and-mouse between the U-boat and a German destroyer, especially since almost nothing works in the U-boat. Above all, U-571 is a guilty pleasure, with lots of flashy explosions, but little underneath.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 56 minutes, Rated PG-13 for war violence.

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