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Jonathan Mostow
Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Jon Bon Jovi
Writing Credits:
David Ayer, Sam Montgomery

A German submarine is boarded by disguised American submariners trying to capture their Enigma cipher machine.

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 8/26/2008

• Audio Commentary with Director Jonathan Mostow.
• “U-Control” Picture-in-Picture Feature


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U-571 [Blu-Ray] (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 26, 2021)

With 2000’s U-571, director/co-writer Jonathan Mostow self-consciously attempted a revival of the World War II submarine genre through a cliché but fairly exciting little action flick. U-571 follows a crew of American sailors as they attempt to capture a German encoding device called the Enigma.

That’s really all I'm going to say about the plot. I made the mistake of reading too much of another synopsis and had a major surprise ruined for me, so I'm not doing that to you. Suffice it to say that not everything goes according to plan and plenty of action follows.

Although it provides a military action movie, U-571 uses the old disaster flick model in a way similar to Independence Day: a huge cast that includes a fair number of recognizable faces. One of the reasons disaster pictures did this was to make it possible to kill off some of those characters.

The logic behind this decision: if a movie includes only a few "name" actors, it's almost inevitable that each will escape danger fairly unscathed. However, if the group packs in a lot of semi-stars, then it's anyone's guess who'll survive.

Overall, the cast - which also includes a lot of unknowns along with folks like Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, and Harvey Keitel - provides able work. Their largest obstacle stems from the vast number of characters.

There are so many participants that virtually none of them get a great deal of exposition. Since McConaughey plays the lead, he receives the most development, but even then the character seems sketchy and unrealized. McConaughey adds surprising spark and power to the role, but the part – and all of the others - largely remains an unexplored role.

At least the action flies fast and furious enough to make character development less crucial. As a whole, the film's various battle sequences aren't anything special, as Mostow presents them in a fairly workmanlike manner that makes them fairly exciting but unexceptional.

Nonetheless, the movie includes enough of these scenes to keep things humming throughout much of its running time. Mostow does little to make the action unique or distinctive, but it works pretty well anyway and maintains a fairly tenseand provocative atmosphere.

By no stretch of the imagination would I consider U-571 to be a great film, as it never gets any better than "pretty good", really. It lacks depth and richness as it sticks to fairly superficial action film clichés.

However, it generally proceeds at a solid pace and it contains enough tension and drama to make it compelling. It's not a classic sub movie, but it's worth a viewing for fans of the genre.

The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio A/ Bonus B-

U-571 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect a disappointing transfer.

The main problem stemmed from the overuse of noise reduction. Should a circa 2000 movie that largely takes place in dimly-lit interiors come with virtually no grain?

Nope, and this application of grain removal left the image as less than detailed. While the film never seemed truly soft, it showed mediocre delineation that also suffered from other digital tinkering.

Light edge haloes cropped up through the flick, so I suspect that after the noise reduction stripped away fine detail, those behind the disc then applied artificial sharpening. While I’ve certainly seemed more heavy-handed use of noise reduction and edge enhancement, their presence here left us with a somewhat dull impression.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized. Print flaws also failed to become a factor.

Given the subject matter and settings, the film opted for a low-key palette that favored blues and tans as well as occasional doses of red lighting. These also suffered from the blandness that came with the noise reduction, but they felt acceptable within stylistic choices.

Blacks seemed mostly deep, while shadows showed positive clarity. While a watchable image, U-571 came with a bland impression most of the time.

On the other hand, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundfield of U-571 appeared extremely involving and engaging. All five speakers worked overtime as they provided a clean and well-blended audio environment.

Each channel displayed a great deal of unique sound, and all of it came together smoothly. Audio transitioned between speakers in a clear and accurate manner that brought the movie to life.

There's so much great sound here that it's hard to pick a special example, but I think I liked the first "torpedo attack" sequence best. The way that the torpedoes flew past us seemed especially exciting.

Audio quality also appeared solid. During an early ballroom scene, I heard some mild edginess to the dialogue, but otherwise speech was natural and articulate.

Music sounded bright and crisp, as the scored displayed strongly brassy and rich tones. Effects were realistic and bold, with no signs of distortion a great deal of bass. This turned into a terrific mix.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2000? The lossless audio packed a stronger punch, as it sounded more distinctive.

Visuals offered a mild upgrade due to the superior capabilities of Blu-ray. However, the transfer’s problems limited improvements, so don’t expect a major step up in quality.

Also found on the DVD, we get an audio commentary from director/writer Jonathan Mostow. He provides a fairly solid track that offers some solid and interesting information about the film.

In this running screen-specific piece, Mostow covers a wide variety of topics, from historical issues to concerns faced by the actors to technical areas. The commentary suffers from only a few empty spots as Mostow offers a consistently chatty and involving presence. Overall, the track seems enjoyable.

Comment that’s funny now but wasn’t in 2000: Mostow claims that his next movie “probably won’t have a lot of action in it”.

Mostow’s next directorial effort? 2003’s Terminator 3. Oops! Well, he did say “probably”, not definitely, and I suspect T3 was an offer too good to refuse.

The Blu-ray loses the rest of the DVD’s extras but replaces them with U-Control, a picture-in-picture feature that runs alongside the film. Here we find footage from the set and comments from Mostow, producer Martha De Laurentiis, and actors Jake Weber, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Guiry, Bill Paxton, TC Carson, Matthew Settle, Jon Bon Jovi, David Keith, Jack Noseworthy, Erik Pallladino and Thomas Kretschmann.

“Control” covers story and characters, history and inspirations, cast and performances, sets and locations, various effects, stunts and action.

We get some decent notes here, but a fair amount of the material tends toward puffy happy talk. The Blu-ray should’ve simply reproduced the DVD’s extras and left off this one.

Although U-571 doesn't become a terribly memorable film, it still provides enough thrills and excitement to make it worthwhile. The story never rises above hoary war flick clichés and the action isn't presented with much flair, but the overall package seems just interesting enough to stimulate my attention. The Blu-ray boasts excellent audio but visuals seem bland and we don’t get a lot of bonus materials. This movie could use a new transfer.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 5
5 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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