U-571


Year 2000

Too Dumb to Use Pseudonyms:

Matthew McConaughey   as  Lt. Andrew Tyler
Bill Paxton as Lt. Commander Mike Dahlgren   
Harvey Keitel as Chief Klough
Jon Bon Jovi as Lt. Pete Emmett   
Jake Weber as Lt. Hirsch   
 
Director - Jonathan Mostow
Screenwriters - Jonathan Mostow
    David Ayer
    Sam Montgomery

This World War II submarine movie was so bad that I couldn't even watch it all of the way through. U-571 got to be so stupid and offensive that I had to turn it off.

Before I get into why it is offensive, I'd first like to tell you why it's bad. In a few words, it's bad because it's contrived.

At the very start of the movie everyone is already assembled at a dance when they hear the news that they're being shipped off on a secret mission. Right? Got that? "Secret mission" that's announced at a dance? Let's just say that I'm not buying it from minute one.

It's bad enough that it happens to be a dance (yeah, they had those all the time during the war). But it's announced that everyone at the dance who happens to be part of the submarine crew, which is every male at this dance, needs to leave immediately. Not exactly "secret" is what I'm thinking.

What's the big secret? Why are these men going out to sea? No one knows...except the galley cooks. They've got it all. During WWII, blacks were not allowed to serve in combat roles. But, they could work as cooks. To me, the birth of the scene where the galley cooks spill the beans probably went along the lines of...


Movie Exec #1: We need to market this movie to blacks, too. How can we squeeze in the black angle?
Brown Noser: Let's make them galley cooks!
Exec #1: Not bad, BN. But that doesn't give them a big enough spot.
Exec #2: Yeah. Bigger.
Butt Kisser: What if they knew something that no one else did?
Exec #2: Maybe you've got something there, BK. But what?
BN: What if they knew the purpose of the secret mission?
Exec #1: Sounds good. We give people who have no direct influence on the outcome a pivotal role because they have information that no one else on board has.
Exec #2: As long as no one but them and the audience knows. They'll be like a Greek Choir.
BK: Or a Greek Chorus.
Exec #1: Whatever. We thought of it. It's ours. BN and BK, clean up here. We're going to lunch and taking the rest of the day off.

And that, boys and girls, is how two guys who are lucky to be told the name of their commanding officer have intimate knowledge that most Admirals don't have.

So, now we're on-board this submarine leaving for its secret destination. I say "we" because the director provided us our point of view - that of the idiot token newbie. We're stuck "in his wet boots" as a way to "bring us up to speed". This newbie is not only a substitute for what the director assumes is an idiotic audience, he's never been on a submarine before. Isn't he part of the crew? Maybe not.

Part of his/our schooling is to be told by some guy in his bunk that if a submarine goes down too far, it will be crushed because of the water pressure. Does anyone out there not know this? We're already ahead of the crew member.

Here's the best part. The magna cum laude graduate that's filling in the n00b makes his point visually by crushing an egg between his finger tips. Huh? He reached into his bunk like a magician putting his hand in a hat and pulled out an egg? How did that get there? Maybe the cooks put it there and that scene was cut from the movie. I know that I don't keep eggs in my bed. But maybe if I slept in a bunk I'd want to keep an egg there to sleep with, especially if I was in a submarine.

Nevertheless, this guy pulls out an egg. I'm assuming that it's an egg. It's white and when he smashes it, yellow stuff comes out. But it's round instead of oblong and too much yellow comes out. Oh, I get it. You can't smash a real egg between your finger tips the way this yahoo did, so it's a fake egg. (Go ahead and try to crush an egg. You can't. Eggs absorb pressure evenly so that anyone trying to crush an egg the way this guy just did wouldn't be able to do it.)

Now we come to the scene where the Americans board the stranded U-Boat. I guess it's stranded. The boat has lights and happy people on it. Maybe it's just a casino boat that's in international waters.

Anyway, our heroes approach the boat in a raft, tell a joke (in German, of course) and are invited on board.

Okay. I'm a guy on a broken down U-Boat and I'm standing guard at night. An inflatable raft shows up. "Halt! Who goes there?" would not be the start and end of my interrogation. I'd ask a couple more questions considering that meeting a raft in the middle of the ocean doesn't happen by accident all that often. Hint: It shouldn't happen at all.

But then with a dirty joke told in German by some guy hundreds of miles from nowhere, the movie would have us believe that the sentry is suddenly thinking, "Of course, you're my friend. Are you Fritz? Hilda's brother? I haven't seen you since we shared a girl in Dusseldorf. Come on in."

It's a real clever technique all right. It's right up there with, "Psst! Your shoelace is untied."

So, the Americans are on-board thanks to this slick bit of gimmickry. A gun fight ensues.

Top on my list of things to not do is shoot a machine gun inside of cramped submarine. (Although to be fair, sparks were flyin' but no damage was done to equipment - just like in real life. (I'm being sarcastic.)) Well, drinking carbolic acid for the head rush is really number one on my Not To Do list. So, I guess shooting a gun in the metal tube where I'm standing and expecting to come out unscathed has got to be at least number two or three.

Click! Off with the TV!

I think that I've made a case for why this is an insufferably bad movie. Now Comes my argument for why it is offensive. It offensive because of rule #1 in my rules for offensive movies). You see, in dubbya-dubbya-two, the Allies really did capture an Enigma decoder from a German submarine. It was one of the unsung turning points of the war. The British went aboard the U-110 and took everything not nailed down. This included the only intact Enigma machine (that's what the German's called their coder box) liberated during the war.

It's a remarkable story and there is no clear answer as to whether the Allies could have won the war without this piece of equipment. It definitely took the sting out of the German Wolf-pack submarine attacks.

"U-571" is a cheap whore and diminishes a history making event by turning it into a mindless shoot 'em up. If you want a good account of the whole Ultra saga (what the Allies called the effort to crack the Enigma code), check out "The Ultra Secret" by F.W. Winterbotham.

If you want abused "history" forced into a less than deft portrayal then maybe you should watch this movie.


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