If you are a fan of the war movie sub-genre U-Boot and submarine movies then you might consider watching U-571. It’s not great, it’s not innovative, it’s corny at times but it’s decent and gripping enough – despite an anti-climax towards the end – and offers two hours of entertainment. The cast is well-chosen (Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, Harvey Keitel, Thomas Kretschmann, Jon Bon Jovi), the story is somewhat stretched in its plausibility but not totally far-fetched either.
The American submarine U-571 is sent on a secret mission to capture the Enigma machine on a German submarine. They will achieve this by diguising the boat and the crew as German.
While the initial part of the mission works out – they get on the boat – , they are not able to return to their own sub and have to stay on the German boat that has been damaged badly before. There are not many survivors of the German crew apart from the character played by Thomas Kretschmann. Kretschmann is one of those actors who will always be casted in a newer war movie in which there is need for a cool-looking, blond German. He is the prototypical Aryan-looking German soldier, so to speak. I’m generally very fond of him but this isn’t his best role.
Of course all kinds of other submarines will start to chase the U-571 while the boat gets more and more damaged. All the cliché elements of the subgenre are present, waiting for being hit, diving too deep, water leaking in.
Now the truth is that there were far more British missions of this kind during WWII than American ones and the episode shown in the movie is purely fictional. Fact is that Germany sunk far over 1000 Allied ships in 1941 and almost achieved a total blockade of Great Britain. The same year a British crew managed to board a German U-Boot and captured the so-called Enigma machine. The Enigma machine (more of it can be seen in the movie Enigma) was a machine that encrypted messages between the German U-Boots and their high command. Capturing the machine led to a significant breakthrough in decoding messages. But all this is history and little of it can be seen in this movie.
All in all this is a movie for fans of the subgenre and of some of the actors and is decidely more of an action than a war movie.