Apr 26, 2000 at 12:00 am

When director Jonathon Mostow (Breakdown) embarked on the submarine action drama U-571, he knew comparisons to similar films such as Das Boot were inevitable. Not only did he expect them, but he also welcomed them, given that he admired the classic film and based part of his research on it. In comparison, most agree that U-571 isn’t quite in the same league, but it doesn’t fall short in delivering a sufficient amount of suspense and action.

After S-33, an American decoy vessel, submerges into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean during World War II, its captain (played by Matthew McConaughey) leads his crew on a risky mission to swipe a decoding device from a stranded German submarine. The so-called Enigma machine was used by the Nazis to transfer coded messages – U.S. capture of any of the machines could be crippling for the enemy. But it’s when the device is confiscated that the mission goes awry and the true action begins, leaving a lucky few of the special-mission crew alive to get themselves and the Enigma away from German forces.

While the plot takes many twists and turns managing to keep audiences on the edge of their seats, the subplot – consisting of McConaughey’s character having to prove his toughness for a promotion – sinks amid stilted and contrived dialogue with co-stars Jon Bon Jovi, Harvey Keitel and Bill Paxton. The nominal success of the drama is not in captivating dialogue or stellar performances, but rather is due to solid action sequences consisting of believable maritime scenarios.

For those who appreciate submarine thrillers and feel it’s been way too long since Das Boot and Crimson Tide, consider U-571 for a decent quick fix.

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