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A U.S. Navy Captain and his crew are just beginning to enjoy 48 hours of leave when they receive word to immediately return to duty. On a top-secret assignment, they must disguise themselves as Nazis and infiltrate a severely damaged Nazi U-boat. Once on board, they are to steal the Nazi's top-secret decoding device and sink the sub before the Germans catch on to what's really happening. Their mission is more dangerous and frightening than anything they could have ever imagined, but one which has the power to turn the tide of battle.
For more about U-571 and the U-571 Blu-ray release, see U-571 Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 29, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi, Jake Weber, David Keith
Director: Jonathan Mostow
» See full cast & crew
U-571 Blu-ray Review
Need a new disc to show off your sound system? Look no further.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 29, 2008
Our inability to decipher their messages is costing us this war.
Wartime movies set on submarines always make for fascinating material, be they World War II-based classics like Run Silent, Run Deep and Das Boot, or more modern dramas like Crimson Tide and The Hunt For Red October. These four films are classics of the genre, and it takes a skilled filmmaker to keep our interest in these styles of films because, at the end of the day, there simply isn't much you can do to set one submarine movie apart from the pack. One thing's for sure when it comes to sub movies, and that is the fact that we're generally treated to some incredibly similar scenes, themes, and perils, and it's the way the movie handles such scenes that plays an important role in whether it's any good. Generally, the natural tension that accompanies such movies overrules any shortcomings in the repetitive nature of such scenes or covers up bad acting, for example, but we can only watch so many scenes of characters in near dead-silence looking above them as a surface ship hunts them, as a radio operator cries out the time and distance to impact of a torpedo, or crews frantically dealing with a broken pipe or a flooding compartment. Despite the similarities, filmmakers have a knack for keeping this sort of material fresh and exciting, and U-571 is no different. This is a film that's rightfully knocked for its terrible historical accuracy, but for sheer entertainment value, it's a serviceable watch for fans of wartime cinema (especially this Blu-ray edition that features standout audio and video), but it pales next to Das Boot or Red October in submarine film lore.
The setting is World War II, only months after the United States entered the War. A German submarine has been severely damaged in battle, leaving her crippled and adrift. She radios Berlin for help, and the radio transmission is intercepted by the Allies. Lt. Andrew Tyler (Matthew McConaughey, Fool's Gold), recently passed over for promotion to Captain, and his crew are assigned the mission of intercepting the damaged German submarine in the guise of a German rescue team, board the damaged ship, and capture the "Enigma Machine," an advanced device that is capable of encrypting messages that have proven unbreakable by the allies. Of course, such a daring and dangerous mission is not without plenty of action and unfortunate turns of events on the Allied side. No matter the situation, the Allied task force must complete their mission, one that will undoubtedly save numerous lives in the weeks and months to come, all the while preventing the Germans from believing their code has been compromised.
The historical inaccuracies of U-571 are well-documented and not worth delving into in this review. Interested readers will find plenty of material around the Internet on the subject, though one thing is worth mentioning. I found it rather ironic that at film's end, the filmmakers saw fit to acknowledge their fudging of the truth by telling audiences that it was indeed the British Navy (their vessels designated by the "HMS" prefix) that secured the majority of captured Enigma Machines, citing cases in both May 1941 (months before the U.S. entered the War) and October 1942, though one instance of a U.S. capture two days prior to the landing at Normandy by U.S. Navy Task Force 22.3 is listed. Why the decision was made to inform audiences that they had been lied to for the past hour and fifty minutes is mind-boggling, though it was probably in the best interest of assuaging the inevitable outrage from our British allies. Nevertheless, from a purely technical and entertainment perspective, for war film fans U-571 is a brisk, fun picture to watch. If we can suspend disbelief and lose ourselves in the relentless action of the film, it makes for a decent time killer. Featuring plenty of gunfire and explosions, the mindless-action-movie-loving-crowd (myself included) should be able to easily settle into this one during a rainy Saturday afternoon. The acting is sufficient in the film, too. McConaughey doesn't really impress, but he doesn't disappoint, either. Bill Paxton and Harvey Keitel also appear as primary cast members, and they're always worth watching. Jonathan Mostow's (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) direction is by-the-book, but the film's relentless action and engaging sound design (in fact, the film won the 2001 Oscar for Sound Editing, and was nominated for Best Sound) steal the show and take our attention away from the pedestrian direction. If there is one real reason to watch U-571 today, however, it's to revel in the stunning quality of the Blu-ray release, so without further ado, let's move on to the video and audio quality portion of the review.
U-571 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Universal's 1080p, 2.35:1 high definition transfer of U-571 is a spectacular one that is only overshadowed by the awe-inspiring soundtrack, which we'll get to in a moment. This is a solid, natural, film-like transfer that exhibits fine detail across the board. Look at the scene in chapter three as we see the crews working on the submarine in port at night. The water has a very pleasing, lifelike look to it, the detail of a torpedo we see being taken to the ship displays a nice texture and the dents and dings on it make it look strikingly real, and even the sparks flying from the welding are bright and clear, playing nicely in stark contrast to the darkness around them. The wear and tear on the interior of the subs, the joints that hold it together, the look of the steel welds, and the rust that shows up on occasion, all look absolutely amazing. Rarely do we see so much rich, wonderful detail as we do on this disc. Likewise, faces and clothing show pleasing detail. The various leather jackets worn in the movie are particularly impressive. The whites of the Naval dress uniforms are a crisp, lifelike white, black levels are spot-on, flesh tones are accurate, and color reproduction, even if much of the movie is of a gray tint, is fabulous. Daytime, exterior shots outside the sub with the rich blue water off to the sides are simply stunning. The image appears three-dimensional and vibrant, and it is a wonderful thing to behold. A touch of film grain is visible over the transfer, and there are some moments that aren't as sharp as the rest, perhaps the only visible downfall to be found on the disc. U-571 is a handsome-looking disc, offering an eye-popping and highly detailed transfer that is sure to please.
U-571 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Universal once again hits a soundtrack out of the park (I wanted to say blows it out of the water, but I believe that has a different meaning) with this awesome DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless mix accompanying U-571. This is a spacious, immersive, and high quality soundtrack that proves most exciting and is definitely demonstration-worthy from start to finish. It's not just the major, front-focused explosions and gunshots that make the track exciting. It's the many nuances found throughout that bring it to life, crossing the line from loud and fun to natural and engrossing. The subtle yet palpable sound of the creeks of subs and the pressure of the water against the hull, the sometimes whisper-quiet chatter of crew in the background, the sonar pings, and the like all make for a fascinating listen. The track's fine quality is palpable from the very first moments of the movie. Everything is well-proportioned with fine directionality and imaging. Sounds are impeccably placed, from soft atmospherics to the hardest-hitting action sequences. Listen in chapter one to the depth charges going off in the distance from inside the sub. As they get closer, the tension mounts, and in between in the dead silence of the sub as the crew listens, we hear the occasional drip of water all around the soundstage. An explosion in chapter nine and a depth charge attack in chapter 15 will literally rock your entire room, and whether it's overplayed or not, it's a powerful sonic moment sure to please. Surround activity, of course, is high, evidenced by both atmospherics and unrelenting action and music. It's not just generic, "grab your attention" style sounds, either. They're loud but natural, and create an exhilarating soundstage that combined with heavy, clear bass and excellent fidelity, make this soundtrack a home theater system seller. There are far too many truly awesome moments to mention, but nearly every second of the movie brings audiences something good to listen to, and U-571 proves to be one of the best soundtracks on Blu-ray today, hands down.
U-571 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
U-571 sails onto Blu-ray with only two supplemental features, the first of which is a commentary track with director Jonathan Mostow. His commentary is an informative one. Near the beginning of the movie, Mostow elaborates on the accuracy of the film insofar as the look of the submariners and the veterans who were always on-set to ensure the accuracy of the inner-workings of the submarine. He also talks about the authenticity of the look, using scale models and eschewing an abundance of CGI. Mostow never falters and remains an interesting listen, whether is is speaking about the safety measure taken, the editing, and some computer enhancement scattered throughout. This title is also U-Control enabled. Accessing the feature places a "U" button on the bottom right hand corner of the your display and from that comes a series of pop-up windows that feature behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the movie, interviews with cast and crew, and more. It serves as a more impressive method of bringing viewers the behind-the-scenes material, inserting them into the appropriate places in the movie, and it heightens the impact of the material.
U-571 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
U-571 makes for decent entertainment but is definitely not the film you want to show to a history class. In the end the movie even admits to being phony. For wall-to-wall action and to hear Academy Award-winning and nominated sound, however, the movie is a success. Likewise, Universal's Blu-ray release is technically impeccable. Featuring first-class video quality and one of the finest soundtracks to date, Blu-ray owners in search of another disc to round out a collection of demonstration-worthy discs need not miss U-571. The overall quantity of the supplemental material is disappointing, but the quality of what we do have is sufficient. U-571 isn't close to being even the best submarine movie on Blu-ray, but it's a fun, quick-paced, action-packed watch that shines on this format. Recommended for the strong A/V quality.
U-571: Other Editions
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