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"U-571"

Directed by Jonathan Mostow.
Written by Sam Montgomery, David Ayer and Jonathan Mostow.
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Harvey Keitel and Bill Paxton. 
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  4/24/00 

Folks--

Well, the good news keeps rolling in for Bellview in 2000; today, it was a phone call from my landlord to inform me of what is becoming so regular it is scary:  by the end of August (preferably to him, by the end of July), the Chuckwagon and I have got to move out.  So, for the ninth time in eight years (last year, I had to move twice), I get to move again!!  YES.  If anyone needs help on how to pack boxes, safely wrap wall art and glassware, or secure the services of a U-Haul around mid-August--when every fucking 18-22 year old in the country is also trying to rent a U-Haul to go to college--please, let Chuck or myself know.  If you live in the DC area, please keep the end of August open so that you can carry a couple of boxes from our loft to the truck.

On Saturday, Chuck and I rolled over to a sold-out theater to catch "U-571", the submarine action-thriller with Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bon Jovi, and Harvey Keitel.  I think for this review, I want to talk about what this movie isn't, rather than what it is.

First off, "U-571" is NOT "Crimson Tide", the last submarine thriller that really registered on the radar screen in theaters.  "Crimson Tide"'s antagonistic tone--not to mention the great acting of Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman--made for better in-sub sequences and more interest in the characters on board.  "U-571" has a motley crew of nine soldiers that are better trained as sailors than as marines, so it is interesting to watch these men take over a German U-boat as the odds are stacked against them.  There is far more action in "U-571" than other submarine movies, which is a good thing, I think.  While the characters--McConaughey's unproven naval lieutenant, Keitel's second-in-command crew chief, and the host of young, fresh faces that are common in all war movies--are given some shades of personality, none are as fully developed as those in "Crimson Tide" and as some of "U-571"'s heroes fall to their dooms, you know it is coming and that can provide some pretty good laughs.

Warning:  part of the next paragraph gives away the ending.

"U-571" is NOT "The Hunt for Red October", a movie so ingeniously plotted that you really don't know what is going to happen until the final moments.  (Man, Alec Baldwin dropped the ball by not renewing his Jack Ryan contract and letting Harrison Ford take all the glory in the later two Tom Clancy movies!)  "U-571" is extremely tense at times, and the little details that it apparently gets right about life on a submarine were very interesting and a bit different than most sub movies that seem to leave these details out (the flood of water that comes down through the periscope whenever it is raised or lowered into the bridge, for example).  But, McConaughey's character gets too many things right in the final 30 minutes about how he can get out of his precarious situation, and I thought the ending was too perfect for a movie that really made good use of how the good guys can get things wrong.  And, with a Luke-destroys-the-Death-Star scenario to end the movie, it just seemed TOO perfect for me.

"U-571" is NOT a romantic comedy.  I don't think that a single woman had a line in the movie, but it is a WWII sub drama.  I guess that makes some sense!  But, what this movie does do well is scare the hell out of you if you can really imagine being on a submarine for six months--it really does seem tight on that German U-boat, and what if you are stuck on a raft in the middle of the Atlantic?  Mmm, scary--for some of you, this was like seeing my ass in "Gratuitous"...the visions of it just make you shoot out of bed in a cold sweat!!

So, what IS "U-571"?  It is the beginning of the summer movie season.  It is as straightforward a movie as you will find these days, it appeals to a mass audience, and it had over six minutes of depth charge explosions...or, about five minutes too many.  So, in that vein, it is really loud, really explosive and has amazing special effects--plus, it is a lot of fun watching us gringos take down those Nazi bastards.  Just what the doctor ordered!

Rating:  $8.25 Show

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09