"Please remove Jon Bon Jovi for four fingers!"
"U-571" is a hell of a lot like a big-tittied porn
star. She's fantastic when she's performing, but when she opens
her mouth she's about as smart as a colostomy bag, and the same
shit pours out. This would have been a masterpiece as a silent
movie, but its pretty boy stars are given loose lips and that
sinks the ship.
In 1941, the Nazis are sinking all the Brit ships in the Atlantic
Ocean because the Allied forces can't figure out their secret
messages. So, it's Americans to the rescue. The U.S. disables
a German U-boat holding a message encoder called an Enigma (imagine
a giant secret decoder ring). A crew, led by barely-there Bill
Paxton and Matthew McConaughey are sent to pose as a German resupply
sub and steal the Enigma.
Of course, they run into the Hollywood plot diversion machine,
which keeps throwing obstacles in the crew's path, as though
they were Apollo 13 underwater. Their American sub is sunk along
with most of their crew, and they must now captain the Kraut
boat to safety. They are bombarded with depth charges and every
depth charge breaks some new piece of equipment on the sub that
makes it more difficult for them to get away. For some unexplained
reason, they let one German stay alive on the ship and he, big
fucking surprise, sabotages the Americans. Needless to say, each
obstacle confirms that Americans are plucky and terribly handsome,
even when wet. Of course, we win because there has yet to be
a Hollywood movie, or World War, where the Nazis win.
There are some poorly thought-out subplots meant to engage
us emotional people. Maybe this is the shit that Hollywood thinks
brings in the ladies. The primary one is that Paxton did not
recommend McConaughey for a promotion because he didn't feel
the pot-smoking hippie was mature enough. Through the course
of the movie, McConaughey must prove his maturity. Now, if only
I gave a rat's ass.
What I liked best about this movie is how it took a true story
about some Limeys who stole the first Enigma and turned it into
a big-budget flick about plucky Americans. Fuck yeah! You Brits
go ahead and keep making "The Beach" and complaining
about how us Americans with our braces and big cars are stupid.
We'll just go and rewrite the history books while you're busy
whining. I hope that this is just the beginning, and Hollywood
will now spend millions of dollars rewriting every historic episode
of heroism so that it features an American. Did you know that
Jesus was an American? So was Napoleon. (Note: don't fucking
send me e-mail about this paragraph unless your country invented
The basic plot of this movie is brilliant: steal a piece of
equipment from a Kraut submarine without getting caught. "U-571"
is at its best when it goes about telling this story in a straight
line. It moves quickly, it's tense enough that I realized I had
a tight grip on the guy next to me's Coke (he didn't say anything,
so I eventually moved it to my other side and enjoyed a free
drink). Even though I knew where the story would end, I couldn't
always guess how it would get there.
While there are the typical phony diversions, they are well
masked by the plot and almost feel organic to the story. Compare
this to "Mission To Mars" in which every plot twist
was clearly pulled straight out of a screenwriter's ass. It's
much smoother here, and the broken pipes and busted machines
feel like natural elements of the story.
Toward the end, the story repeats itself. A third scene where
sailors sat quietly as depth charges dropped around them was
one too many. And the final confrontation with a German Destroyer
was too improbable to fit in to the story's otherwise anal efforts
to be realistic.
I expected "U-571" to be another pansy Hollywood
exercise where they kept cutting away from the sub to show us
some broad in San Diego waiting for her man. "Apollo 13"
did that because its makers were afraid we'd get bored riding
around in a rocket ship. But "U-571" has more balls.
There are no broads waiting, just a bunch of men in a tiny metal
tube who give off some homoerotic overtones. That's fine, it's
ballsy to trust an audience to want to stay with the characters,
and it pays off. I got a better sense of their anxiety and what
a pain in the ass it must be to live in one of those things.
I also suspect that these pretty boys in tight confines will
be a hit in the gay community for many years (Buy it on DVD,
gentlemen, so the quality doesn't degrade after multiple viewings).
The action sequences are really fucking good and the special
effects are top-notch. Normally, I don't give a flying fuck about
that kind of shit, but it was easier to dwell on those than worry
about the uninteresting characters . Plus, it all pulls together
to give the viewer a good sense of the terror they feel underwater.
Outside of the fine submarine plot, the human interest stories
are weaker than my piss after a twelve-pack of Schlitz Light.
Part of the problem is the pansy actors, but most of it has to
do with dialog that was written by screenwriters who have never
interacted with other humans and didn't know that people do not
always repeat cliches and state the obvious. Huge chunks of story
exposition are laid on the screen like horse crap that needs
to be stepped around lightly.
The corny dialog makes McConaughey's quest to grow into a
mature boat captain totally irrelevant and an annoying distraction
from seeing more shit blow up. That the people have their spines
removed by the crap they have to say makes the impact of their
mission feel pointless. The script treats them like automatons,
so why shouldn't we?
Who in their right mind believes that McConaughey, Paxton
and Jon Bon Jovi are Navy sailors? Who the fuck cast this thing?
These guys are such fucking sissies and girly-men that it's damn-near
impossible to believe they wouldn't shit their pants in a real
submarine. The casting of such soft-handed wienies undermines
any sense of reality that the plot and settings try to create.
It's like someone said, "Let's make 'Young Guns III,' but
underwater and using a totally realistic submarine setting."
I'm giving "U-571" three fingers. It's a good fucking
flick for the action fan, a great flick for gay guys and girls
who like wet, strapping young men. But, it's only three fingers
for folks who like actors to have personalities.