U-571 (2000)


U-571 is your standard sub movie-- a bunch of cramped scenes with a 
bunch of square-jawed sailors, all running back and forth, aft to 
stern, frantically turning every knob, lever, and grimy-looking 
switch in sight.  (There's lots of yelling, too.)  Pings, charges, 
evasive maneuvers; every cliche in the operation manual is here, 
right down to the requisite diving-deeper-than-the-depth-gauge-in-
dicates-is-safe sequence.  Yawn.  With better dialogue it might be 
a better trip; instead, early scenes feature Bill Paxton's Captain 
Combover droning on about why he isn't promoting Matthew McConaug-
hey's Executive Officer.  (That the two actors appear half-asleep 
in said scenes suggest that they, too, know that the script is more 
bilge water than ballast.)  Writer/director Jonathan Mostow, whose
first film was the fine BREAKDOWN, misses the boat on this one-- 
ha! -- because he relegates the best plot twist to the last *third*
of the film.  When the scrappy American crew finds themselves at 
the helm of a German boat and without a clue what to do, *that* 
should be the meat of the movie.  *Those* are the most dependably
suspenseful moments in the entire movie and, thus, the most deserv-
ing of screen time.  Mostow messes by instead including too many
extraneous scenes, starting with an unnecessary Ratzi-sub-in-peril
opening sequence.  Why start with such an irrelevant bang?  Espec-
ially when the story is barely sympathetic to the enemy?  What a
waste.  And how about that backlot-looking Portsmouth Naval Base?
Or so-and-so's bludgeoning (and, in select theaters, defeaning) 
orchestral score?  Save your money and rent DAS BOOT...  With Har-
vey Keitel and, of all people, rock star Jon Bon Jovi.  (Rated 
"PG-13"/110 min.)
Grade: C-

Copyright 2000 Michael J. Legeros
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