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U-571

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    Ian Jane
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  • U-571

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    Released by: Universal Studios
    Released on: 8/26/08
    Director: Jonathon Mostow
    Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi, Jake Weber
    Year: 2000

    The Movie

    Jonathon Mostow's World War II submarine epic U-571 follows an American submarine captain named Lieutenant Commander Mike Dahlgren (Bill Paxton) who, along with his crew, is called up for a top secret mission. While Dahlgren and his second in command, Lieutenant Andrew Taylor (Matthew McConaughey) are aware of the specifics of the mission, most of the crewmembers are not.

    As they set out into the ocean, they soon learn that they're going to have to impersonate a German crew and infiltrate a distressed Nazi U-boat where they're to acquire a coding device. Once they get the device, they're to sink the boat and get back to their ship to hightail it out of there before the Nazi's figure out what's happened. Of course, the mission becomes more complicated than they first figured it would be, and turns out to be even more dangerous than anyone expected it ever could be.

    Populated by an interesting supporting cast - made up by the likes of Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi (yup), Jake Weber, David Keith and Matthew Settle - is a good film even if it isn't a great film. The closest and most obvious point of comparison has to be Das Boot and when put up against what is arguably the finest submarine movie ever made, it doesn't quite hold up. Then again, U-571 is a different submarine film than the earlier and better regarded Wolfgang Peterson picture and evaluated on that different level, it certainly has plenty worth recommending about it.

    The performances are strong across the board, even Bon Jovi is good here, and the film has plenty of claustrophobic atmosphere about it. The cinematography is excellent and from a technical stand point U-571 is a very nice looking picture that effectively utilizes its sets and locations to build suspense. The problem with the film is that it's a little bit on the predictable side and it's slightly too long. There are a couple of spots where the film drags just a bit and it's easy to lose interest during these moments.

    That said, paying attention pays off, obviously, and the last twenty or so minutes of the picture make up for the slower parts early on. The semi-predictable plot, while not the most engaging of stories ever told, is at least suspenseful enough in some spots that it results in a reasonably enjoyable picture. The filmmakers were obviously going for bigger and better things than they accomplished but the finished product is good. Not great, but good. The film gets by on technique and atmosphere more than anything else and its on the technical level that the movie shines, not on the narrative.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Universal presents U-571 in a very nice VC-1 encoded 1080p 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks quite good. The image has as much depth as the submarine setting will really allow for and foreground detail is consistently strong throughout the film. Color reproduction looks nice and natural, black levels stay strong and deep and there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or noticeable edge enhancement. There is what looks like some minor DVNR noticeable in some scenes but it isn't overpowering or too distracting and overall, this is quite a good transfer.

    The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix on this Blu-ray release is outstanding and the film sounds damn near perfect. The sound effects are great, particularly when water is involved and the subwoofer kicks in. Surrounds are used very effectively to build plenty of atmosphere and ambience throughout the film and there is a lot of directional activity here to keep things fun. Dialogue stays clear and the levels are well balanced ensuring that there aren't any problems understanding the performers during the film.

    Optional standard definition Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround Sound tracks are available in French and Spanish while removable subtitles are supplied in English SDH, French and Spanish.

    Universal has carried over the commentary track with director Jonathon Mostow that was on both the standard definition and HD-DVD release of the film for this Blu-ray debut. It's a good track that relays a lot of interesting information even if Mostow's delivery isn't the most exciting. He covers the history behind the film and why he wanted to make it as well as some of the technical challenges that were presented by shooting on a confined set like a submarine. He talks about casting the picture and how he strived for authenticity and covers some of the politics in the picture. It's interesting stuff and is actually well worth listening to if you enjoyed the film.

    Aside from that, Universal has stashed the rest of the extras features in the 'U-Control' function on the disc by way of a cool picture-in-picture feature that allows you to access cast and crew interviews, behind the scenes footage, news clips from the era that the film is set in and more as the film plays out. This is basically a mix of the four featurettes that were on the standard definition release, though not everything from those four featurettes is here, some material has been left out.

    The Final Word:

    While not the 'be all, end all' of submarine movies, U-571 is still a well made and reasonably suspenseful adventure film and it really benefits immensely from the enhanced resolution and spectacular sound mix that this Blu-ray release offers.
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