I may have said this before, but it seems that World War II movies seem to keep that timeless touch, especially when it comes to movies. Though not a true story, it is based on stories of events that actually happened. While U-571 is bound to draw comparisons to Crimson Tide (being the only recent movie that involves submarines), they are not at all similar except for the fact that they both take place on a submarine. Mostow has assembled quite a varied, yet stellar cast for this movie but the problem is that some of the major stars go underused. Like Saving Private Ryan, U-571 shows us once again the courage that the men of World War II had in trying to defeat the Germans from taking over the world. Having such a young cast may seem a bit trendy, but as we find out from Mostow, most of the crew was in their teens and it was nearly unheard of for a Captain to be over the age of 35.
The heart of the movie focuses on The Battle of the Atlantic. A German encryption device, known as the “Enigma” is allowing contact between the Germans and the Americans are unable to break their code. As the movie opens, we see inside a German U-Boat (submarine) that is being deluged with Depth Charges. As they explode, literally outside the hull, the boat is crippled and all are presumed lost and/or dead. The Americans get wind of this, and a Marine team lead by David Keith is sent into retrieve the Enigma. The one problem is that they must act and disguise themselves as Germans, or risk having the codes changed…thereby rendering the device useless. Along a subplot is a little rivalry between McConaughey’s Lt. Tyler and the Mike Dahlgren (Bill Paxton) . Having just been denied his own command, Tyler is a bit ticked off at the whole situation, and the 48 hour leave that the crew is on is the perfect time for him to let loose some of his tensions. Their leave is cut explicably short, though, as Marines crash the party to tell the crew of their mission (to retrieve the Enigma device). Allowing new members aboard their submarine, certain members are hand picked to disguise themselves as Germans and get the Enigma device off the German sub.
Had everything gone right, there wouldn’t be much of a story to tell, would there? Taking along a crew member who is fluent in German, he is the only one capable of speaking and interpreting the German language. At the last minute, while attempting to board the German sub, their cover is blown and all hell breaks loose. The U.S. boat is blown up with most of the crew inside dead, along with the Captain. Now, a band of U.S. soldiers are aboard a German submarine with the Enigma device (the mission was a success…sort of) and are faced with the challenge of trying to get help and get out of the situation alive. The movie takes off here as it’s a cat and mouse game with the U.S. soldiers trying to outwit the German fleet. And let’s not forget that there are some Germans still on board the sub as well. Mostow has created a real thriller here. While a lot more exciting than his previous “Breakdown”, U-571 is a movie that a lot of people can relate to. Featuring a top notch cast that includes Harvey Keitel, Bill Paxton, David Keith and Matthew McConaughey, U-571 will keep you on the edge of your seat. A great action film that we don’t see a lot of anymore.
Video: How does it look?
“U-571” sports the same 2.40:1 VC-1 HD transfer that was present on the HD DVD and it looks just a bit cleaner than its HD predecessor. Granted, when I reviewed the HD DVD of this film, there wasnt’t a lot of comparison material out there. However, now that I’ve had the opportunity to sample a few hundred HD DVD and Blu-ray titles, it’s clear (pardon the pun) that this wasn’t a fluke. Colors are generally strong and vibrant and there are a lot of darkly-lit scenes that look spectacular. The murky water of which we see so many shots is the perfect time for a transfer to pixelate and give us some flaws in the transfer and I noticed none of that. We can see every bead of sweat on the actors faces and the detail in some scenes is simply amazing. Odds are that “U-571” will always be an inuagural title from Universal and with good reason too, it looks fantastic.
Audio: How does it sound?
If there was one thing the movie was know for, it was sound. The original DTS track has made its way over here and it sounds amazing. The DTS Master Audio sound is much more robust that the standard DVD that preceded it. I do vividly recall the depth charges going off and each one shook the room as it exploded. There seems to be an almost constant humming going on throughout the movie. A great example of the sound can be found when a torpedo barely misses the submarine. It scratches the surface and “rides” along the length of the sub. You can actually hear most every scrape and scratch…awesome! As mentioned above, there are about 200 depth charges that explode in the water, and if they’re right off the bow or 200 feet above the sub, they all sound excellent. In addition to the improved picture, the sound is right up there with the best on Blu-ray.
Supplements: What are the extras?
“U-571” was one of Universal’s first offerings on HD DVD and it would stand to reason that it should (and is) one of the inagural offerings on Blu-ray. First off is a feature-length commentary with Director Jonathan Mostow, he shows his passion for the film and even shares with us how he came to even make the film (he wrote it as well). While the commentary has only one speaker, it does suffer from time to time with spaces, but not often…he’s very excited about the movie and loves to talk about it. It’s a very informative commentary. We do lose the featurettes from the standard DVD and the HD DVD, but we do get a picture-in-picture commentary track that gives us pretty much the same information about the shoot, the history of the U boats and more.