U-571 (2000) from Johnny Web

Here's how to make a WW2 submarine film profitably.
  1. Get some old footage from submarine movies.
  2. Film Matthew McConaughey in a submarine, looking at the ceiling.
  3. Cut in some of the old footage, showing guys dropping depth charges.
  4. Show Matthew looking at the ceiling, waiting for the depth charges to explode.
  5. Instant masterpiece.

Actually, they spent 62 million dollars making this, none of it on the script. I could have made the entire movie for 200 bucks: 25 bucks for a copy of Das Boot. 75 bucks to rent a video camera, 10 bucks for a blank video tape, and 90 bucks for enough dope to keep Matt looking at the ceiling for a while.

It is supposed to be a composite of three actual incidents in WW2 which resulted in the Allies' breaking the German encryption techniques.

But it sure didn't happen like this.

Here's an example. A few guys from an American sub board a German sub to get the encryption devices. The plan runs into some snags. The attack is successful, but the American sub is destroyed, and a skeleton American crew has to pilot the German sub. Now get this - the cook from the American sub looks through some technical specs for a few seconds and figures out how to run the German one. Not only is he a cook, but he can't speak German! And what the hell was the cook doing on the boarding party in the first place? Was he going to capture the sauerbraten recipe along with the decoder?.

Or what about the inexperienced crewman who takes the unfamiliar German topside gun, and makes the perfect shot to knock out the radio tower on a German destroyer. Great shot, and he only gets one try. If he misses, the whole mission is screwed. One man, one ball, one pelican.

Or the gunfight in a submarine. Man, if you are going to shoot a gun in a crowded sub, you better not miss, because that bullet is gonna do some crazy shit ricocheting around. But they have an regular wild west shootout in there, hidin' behind rocks and callin' each other ornery cayooses and schweinhunde.

Or the WW2 submarine with a digital readout. Huh?

You'll meet all the usual characters. The American captain who bravely goes down with the ship while making impassioned speeches. The inexperienced junior officer who then has to pull the mission off. The crusty career CPO. The kid who's wet behind the ears. The crewman who panics every 10 seconds, like Kowalski on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The millionaire - and his wife.

I shouldn't compare this to Gilligan, because the characters on Gilligan were much deeper and more realistic.

And Skipper was a better sailor.

Although that's balanced off by the fact that the cook is more technically skilled than The Professor.

Oh, well. Let me say this. I'm dumping on it, but it's actually a pretty good presentation, and a lot of people liked it. It's a dumb movie, but it's slick, and it does deliver some tension and a satisfying denouement, albeit in a formulaic way. If you haven't seen the other famous sub movies, you might like it. If you have seen the other famous sub movies, well, you've already seen this one as well.

By the way, the real incidents most similar to this story involved heroic British sailors, not Americans, and the British were the first to capture an Enigma machine from a sub. This happened May 9, 1941, when HMS Bulldog captured U-110. America wasn't even in the war at that time, and would not be for many months. The British also deciphered the code. As far as I know, their cooks were not involved meaningfully ...

(Insert compulsory joke about British cooking here)

... and, for that matter, British cooks have never done anything else meaningful.

No nudity. Not a lot of women on submarines in WW2.

Box office: a winner. It was a popular movie. It took in $77 million in domestic gross alone

IMDB summary: 7.0 out of 10.

Rotten Tomatoes summary. 66% from the general group, 64% from the inner circle.

DVD info from Amazon. Good DVD. It is a good 2.35 widescreen anamorphic transfer. There are some interesting features, detailing the actual incidents and the importance of the Enigma. There is also a "making of", a full-length director's commemtary, and some interviews with the cast and crew. I didn't have time to look at everything, but I'll bet it's all more interesting than the movie.

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