April 1942: Hitler’s U-boats have brought war to the United States. Unknown to the American public, massive Allied shipping losses are occurring up and down the East Coast. Unable to crack the U-boat radio codes, the U.S. Navy struggles blindly against the German onslaught.
Set against the backdrop of WWII, “U-571” is a fictional tale about a daring mission to capture a top secret Nazi coding device from a German submarine. The film is inspired by a composite of events that transpired during the Battle of the Atlantic and is intended as a memorial to all those who served.
There have been many great wartime sub movies throughout the years, perhaps the best being “The Hunt For Red October,” but “U-571” adds nothing new to the genre. It doesn’t just freely borrow from other submarine movies, it downright steals from them. The plot development, the characters, the action sequences are all clichéd, simply because we have seen them so often. To make it more up to date for an audience that evidently demands loudness in place of character development, “U-571” gives us 10 times the amount of depth charges seen in similar films. If you are among a generation who has yet to see a film depicting victories at sea, you will be entertained. Alas, due to the liberal amount of profanity, I am unable to recommend this for family viewing. Certainly, soldiers under the tension of combat would be prone to uttering volatile language, but when the film’s lead uses God’s name followed by a curse ten times, it portrays the character as a man who does not reverence God and a screenwriter unable to present anxiety other than with the use of this one expression. In similar movies made in the ‘40s and ‘50s, actors such as Clark Gable, John Wayne, Richard Widmark and others gave us portraits of men under pressure, able to communicate that emotion without profaning God’s name.