Review by: Matt Brighton
Posted on: January 28th, 2012
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Plot: What’s it about?

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 McCaughey, 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 had a pretty good-looking transfer on standard DVD, but with HD-DVD it looks glorious. The 2.35:1 HD image looks a lot more cleaned up than its predecessor, gone are the little nuances that bothered me before and without the edge enhancement, the images seem to jump off the screen. There are a few scenes that literally dazzled me, outdoor shots of seamen working on the submarine, you can see the sparks fly as they work – amazing. A majority of the movie takes place in the sub and in a dingy light, but the HD transfer has solved whatever problems existed (and I did give this a 4.5 rating before, but as I recall I was watching on a 32” screen – oh the shame!). “U-571” has really never looked this good and watching this is a true testament to how good a HD movie can look.

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 uncompressed DTS 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 DVD.

Supplements: What are the extras?

All of the same supplements that were present on the previous Collector’s Edition DVD are here as well, albeit in a new interface. 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. Also included are a number of featurettes, though none are much over ten minutes in length. There is a making of featurette, which is the “Spotlight on…” that a lot of Universal titles have. Also included are some interviews with the cast and crew along with four other featurettes, “Inside the Enigma”, “Britain captures the U-110”, “A submariners WWII experience” and “U.S. Naval archives, Capturing the U-505”. Add in the production notes, a theatrical trailer and cast and crew bios and you have a pretty good little disc here. The main selling-point, though, is the dual soundtracks. The sound, plus a great movie with a few hours of extra material make this a disc not to miss.

U-571 (HD DVD)
Jonathan Mostow
140 min.

  • HD-DVD
  • (2.35:1)
  • Audio: Dolby Digital
  • Audio: dts
  • 1 Disc Set
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Audio Commentary
  • Deleted Scene(s)
  • Featurette
  • Documentary
  • Digital Copy