Theatrical Release Poster
|Directed by||Jonathan Mostow|
|Produced by||Dino De Laurentiis
Martha De Laurentiis
|Screenplay by||Jonathan Mostow
|Story by||Jonathan Mostow|
Jon Bon Jovi
|Music by||Richard Marvin|
|Editing by||Wayne Wahrman|
|Studio||Dino De Laurentiis Company
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures
|Running time||116 minutes|
U-571 is a 2000 film directed by Jonathan Mostow, and starring Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Thomas Kretschmann, Jon Bon Jovi, Jack Noseworthy, Will Estes, and Tom Guiry. In the film, a World War II German submarine is boarded in 1942 by disguised United States Navy submariners seeking to capture her Enigma cipher machine.
The film was financially successful and generally well-received by critics in the USA and won an Academy Award for sound editing. The fictitious plot attracted substantial criticism since, in reality, it was British personnel from HMS Bulldog who first captured a naval Enigma machine (from U-110 in the North Atlantic in May 1941), long before the United States entered the war. A German U-boat crew is portrayed in a negative light (See the U-852 story below.) The anger over the inaccuracies even reached the British Parliament, where Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that the film was an "affront" to British sailors.
The real U-571 was never involved in any such events, was not captured, and was in fact sunk in January 1944, off Ireland, by a Short Sunderland flying boat from No. 461 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (December 2011)|
The film begins with a summary of how the Allies are struggling to stop U-boats from sinking their freighters. The U-571, has just fired a torpedo and sunk a freighter. The crew's rejoice is later turned to terror as an Allied destroyer drops several depth charges while the U-571 dives to escape them. Soon a fuel line snaps, which catches fire and kills all the engineering crew. Because of sustained damage, U-571 is forced to resurface. With the U-571 out of action and no engineers to restore it, an Enigma-encoded SOS is sent to Berlin for aid.
Meanwhile, the crew of the US Navy submarine S-33 are celebrating ENS Larson's wedding and 48 hours leave. Military Police suddenly arrive, announcing a secret mission that ends shore leave. The S-33 has modified to resemble a German U-boat. The crewman will be going undercover as Kriegsmarine suppliers and aids to intercept the disabled U-571, steal the Enigma coding device and sink the U-571. Hirsch and Radioman Wentz, who are fluent in German will also be joining them, the latter preferring to keep his German origin secret. The S-33 leaves Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Back on U-571, attempted repairs fail and the Captain is alerted that survivors from the merchant ship he sank have been spotted in a lifeboat, asking for asylum. He orders his men to shoot them, as their orders are to spare no survivors. His men reluctantly comply.
During a storm, the S-33 comes across U-571 and sends the boarding party over, led by Coonan. With the aid Wentz's German dialogue the boarding party nears the sub. At first, the Germans openly welcome the S-33, but their cover is blown when a midshipman looks through his binoculars and immediately identifies the weapons as American. Both sides exchange fire, but the Americans manage to capture the U-571 and the Enigma, then begin rounding up the prisoners, including the Captain.
Unfortunately, the S-33 has been blown up by the arrival of the real German resupply sub. The Captain of the S-33, Lieutenant Commander Dahlgren, wounded in the water, orders his men on the captured U-boat to submerge and save themselves. (This scene was based on an actual incident in World War II: Commander Howard W. Gilmore, USN, after being seriously wounded in an encounter with a Japanese destroyer, ordered his men to abandon him on deck and submerge to save the ship and crew. Gilmore was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his sacrifice. The movie quotes Gilmore's last recorded words: "Take her down.") With many Allies lost, Tyler takes command and dives the captured U-boat. The Americans disarm the charges they placed. With only Hirsch and Wentz able to read German, they struggle with interpreting the controls and then fire a salvo of torpedoes, destroying the enemy U-Boat. The U-571's batteries are drained and there is only one torpedo, loaded in the malfunctioning aft torpedo tube. Surfacing, Tyler and his men search for survivors and find two: Eddie the cook from the S-33 and a German sailor claiming to be an electrician, but who is actually the Captain of U-571.
After making repairs and restoring power and propulsion, Tyler decides to take the disabled submarine to England. Some of the men disagree with Tyler's decision and Tyler replies with, "I don't know", to their questions. Chief Klough privately rebukes Tyler, saying, "A Captain always knows what to do, whether he does or not." He also rebukes Mazzola in front of others for openly disagreeing with Tyler. They spot an aircraft, and Mazzola - against Tyler's orders - tries to convince Rabbit to fire on the plane with the deck gun, which appears to be coming in for an attack, but is only scouting for the Anschluss German destroyer. Tyler punches Mazzola for ignoring the Chain of Command and his stupidity. The captured German Captain breaks free, attacks Tank and kills Mazzola before being subdued. Unaware that the U-571 has been commandeered by Americans, the Anschluss sends over a small contingent to meet and greet their German comrades. Right before boarders arrive, Tyler has Rabbit fire a shot from the deck gun right into the ship's radio tower, preventing the destroyer from reporting that the Enigma code has been compromised, and dives underneath her. The destroyer begins to drop depth charges to try to sink U-571.
Tyler plans to trick the destroyer into stopping by ejecting debris and Mazzola's corpse out of an empty torpedo tube, faking their own destruction. The younger men balk at using their crewman's body this way, but Tyler states that Mazzola is saving their lives. U-571 will then surface and hit the ship with their last torpedo.
The German destroyer continues dropping depth charges. U-571, hiding at great depth below 200 meters, is damaged by the high water pressure. Control of the main ballast tanks are lost and the ship ascends uncontrollably. Tyler orders Trigger to submerse himself in the bilge underwater to repressurize the torpedo tubes. During the ascent, the German prisoner tries to warn the destroyer in Morse Code that they're not dead yet. Wentz translates the message in German, "I am U-571. Destroy me!" Enraged, Hirsch grabs a large wrench and kills the prisoner. Trigger manages to close the air valve for the tubes, but a second leak and valve are unexpectedly revealed, both behind a wall of pipes; Trigger's arm can't reach, and his air hose is too short. When Tank reports this, Tyler rushes to the engine room himself. Tyler tells him that they need him to do this and orders him to get the job done. U-571 surfaces without a torpedo to fire. The destroyer fires on the ship, which runs using its diesel engine, but takes heavy damage from the destroyer's deck guns and starts to flood. Trigger leaves behind the air hose and closes the second valve, but the damage causes pipes to collapse, trapping his leg, and he drowns. The second the pressure is available, Tyler orders Tank to fire the final torpedo. The German ship is destroyed; in front of everyone, Chief Klough tells Tyler that if he ever needs a Chief, he would gladly go to sea with him anytime. Tank reports Trigger's death while carrying out his order, but U-571 has taken severe damage and will not stay afloat for long. The crew abandons ship with the Enigma in tow, and watches it sink while mourning their lost crewmates and for the German sub, which ironically, saved their lives. Floating aboard an inflatable lifeboat, they are eventually spotted by a US Navy PBY Catalina sea-plane.
- Matthew McConaughey as Lieutenant Andrew Tyler
- Bill Paxton as Lieutenant Commander Mike Dahlgren
- Harvey Keitel as Chief Gunner's Mate Henry Klough
- Jon Bon Jovi as Lieutenant Pete Emmett
- David Keith as Major Matthew Coonan
- Jake Weber as Lieutenant Michael Hirsch
- Jack Noseworthy as Seaman Bill Wentz
- Tom Guiry as Seaman Ted "Trigger" Fitzgerald
- Will Estes as Torpedoman Ronald "Rabbit" Parker
- T. C. Carson as Seaman Eddie Carson
- Erik Palladino as Seaman Anthony Mazzola
- Dave Power as Motor Machinist Charles "Tank" Clemens
- Derk Cheetwood as Seaman Herb Griggs
- Matthew Settle as Ensign Keith Larson
- Thomas Kretschmann as Kapitänleutnant Gunther Wassner
Critical reception 
The film was generally well received by critics, with 63 out of the 93 critics tallied by review aggregating website Rotten Tomatoes giving the film positive reviews. The movie performed well at the box office.
Controversies regarding content 
Historical events 
The United States' direct participation in World War II commenced in 1941 with Lend-Lease and the Attack on Pearl Harbor, but the history of capturing Enigma machines and breaking their codes had already begun in Europe.
An earlier military Enigma machine had been captured by Polish Intelligence in 1928; the Polish Cipher Bureau broke the Enigma code in 1932 and gave their findings to Britain and France in 1939, just before the German invasion of Poland.
The first capture of a naval Enigma machine and associated cipher keys from a U-boat were made on May 9, 1941 by HMS Bulldog of Britain's Royal Navy, commanded by Captain Joe Baker-Cresswell. The U-boat was U-110. In 1942, the British seized U-559, capturing additional Enigma codebooks. "The captured codebooks provided vital assistance to the British cryptographers, led by Alan Turing, at the code-breaking hothouse of Bletchley Park, near Milton Keynes."
The capture, rather than sinking, of U-570 – the only ship to be captured by an aircraft – on 27 August 1941 by a Lockheed Hudson from RAF Coastal Command was important for determining the fighting capacity of U-boats, although her crew destroyed the Enigma and cipher information. The boat was towed to port and commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Graph.
Out of some 15 captures of naval Enigma material during World War II, all but two were by the British – the Royal Canadian Navy captured U-774, and the U.S. Navy seized U-505 in June 1944. By this time the Allies were already reading naval Enigma traffic routinely.
The film caused irritation and anger in Britain. At Prime Minister's Questions, Tony Blair agreed with questioner Brian Jenkins MP that the film was "an affront" to British sailors. In response to a letter from Paul Truswell, MP for the Pudsey constituency (which includes Horsforth, a town proud of its connection with HMS Aubretia), U.S. president Bill Clinton wrote assuring that the film's plot was only a work of fiction.
A written acknowledgment does appear on-screen that the Royal Navy captured the first, and subsequently the vast majority, of the naval Enigma devices.
David Balme, the British naval officer who led the boarding party aboard the U-110, called U-571, "a great film" and said that the movie would not have been financially viable without being Americanized. The film's producers did not agree to his request for a message, making it clear that the film was a work of fiction, but agreed to include a message at the film's end mentioning the Royal Navy's role in the capture of U-110.
|“||It was a distortion...a mercenary decision...to create this parallel history in order to drive the movie for an American audience. Both my grandparents [sic] were officers in World War II, and I would be personally offended if somebody distorted their achievements.||”|
Negative portrayal of U-boat sailors 
The movie portrays a scene in which the U-boat sailors kill the Allied merchant crewmen who have survived their ship's sinking, in compliance with naval policy and so that the survivors do not report the U-boat position. German U-boat crews were under War Order No. 154 not to rescue survivors, which was also the policy of the Allies, out of several thousand sinkings of merchant ships in World War II, and there is indeed one documented case of a U-boat crew's deliberately attacking the ship's survivors: that of the U-852, whose crew attacked survivors of the Greek ship Peleus.
General inaccuracies 
Although the American submariners crewing U-571 successfully sink the German resupply U-boat in an undersea battle, in reality this was extremely difficult for any World War II submarine to achieve. The only instance of a submerged submarine's sinking another submerged vessel was the Action of 9 February 1945, when HMS Venturer sank the U-864 with torpedoes.
The presence of the German destroyer in the Atlantic Ocean is a likely inaccuracy, as most of the surface fleet of the Kriegsmarine never ventured far west into the Atlantic (owing to the overwhelming strength of the British and American surface fleets), and no German ship did so from 1942 onwards. The few exceptions were their capital ships, such as the Admiral Graf Spee, Scharnhorst, and Bismarck.
In the discussion of the plan to capture the Enigma, Maj. Coonan addresses Lt. Tyler as "sir." As a major in the Marines, he outranked Tyler. A major in the Marines, Army or Air Force is the equivalent of a lieutenant commander in the Navy, which outranks a lieutenant. He might, however, have addressed him as "sir" because he was the submarine's executive officer. Also, an executive officer normally holds a rank higher than lieutenant.
The Messerschmitt 109 that buzzes the submarine prior to her encounter with the destroyer is referred to as a "long range reconnaissance" aircraft. In reality, the 109 was a relatively short range aircraft not typically deployed on such duties.
The real U-571, captained by Oberleutnant zur See Gustav Lüssow, was lost with all hands on 28 January 1944, west of Ireland. She was hit by depth charges, dropped from a Short Sunderland Mk III flying boat, EK577, callsign "D for Dog", belonging to No. 461 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The aircraft's commander, Flt Lt Richard Lucas, reported that most of the U-boat's 52 crew managed to abandon ship, but all died from hypothermia. "D for Dog", which was crewed partly by Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel, was based at RAF Pembroke Dock, in Wales.
The real S-33 was stationed in the Pacific Ocean from June 1942 till the end of the war. She was not sunk during World War II and was sold for scrap in 1946. The S-26 did not sink in a test dive; she instead sank in a collision with a patrol combatant, PC-460, in January 1942.
The Thompson submachine gun used by the sailors in the American boarding party had M1A1 Carbine folding stocks. It is unlikely that there were any Thompsons equipped with folding stocks during World War II, as only American paratroopers had guns with those types of stocks.
Deleted scenes 
The movie was originally (in the USA) rated "R" due to a scene where Lt. Pete Emmett (Jon Bon Jovi) is decapitated by flying debris. To get a "PG-13", the shot was redone with Emmett this time knocked overboard by flying debris. This left many audience members not knowing what happened to his character. A death scene was also filmed for Maj. Matthew Coonan (David Keith), but the effect did not work well so it was cut from the film.
Awards and nominations 
The film was nominated for two awards at the 73rd Academy Awards: Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing (Steve Maslow, Gregg Landaker, Rick Kline and Ivan Sharrock). It won the sound editing award.
See also 
- Das Boot
- Submarine films
- History of cryptology — World War II cryptology
- First seizure of Enigma
- Enigma (2001 film)
Notes and references 
- Rotten Tomatoes: U-571 Movie Reviews Retrieved 2009-06-02
- "The 73rd Academy Awards (2001) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- "U-boat film an 'affront', says Blair". BBC News. 7 June 2000. Retrieved 2006-08-18.
- IMDB Filming Locations
- "'U-571' Runs Noisy, Runs Strong". The Los Angeles Times. 2000-05-02. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
- "History". Channel 4. Retrieved 2013-03-09.
- "Storm over U-boat film". BBC News. 2 June 2000. Retrieved 2006-08-18.
- "Capturing the real U-571". BBC News. 2 June 2000. Retrieved 2006-08-18.
- "U-571 writer regrets 'distortion'". BBC News. 18 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-18.
- "NOVA Online: Hitler's Lost Sub". PBS. 16 December 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-16.
- "Boats - ''U-864''". uboat.net. Retrieved 2013-03-09.
- "The Movies". uboat.net. Retrieved 2013-03-09.
- uboat.net - U-boat Types - Type XIV
- Williamson, Gordon (2003). German Destroyers 1939-45. Osprey Publishing. p. 6.
- "uboat.net, "''U-571''"". Uboat.net. Retrieved 2013-03-09.
- "Ss-105 s-1". Globalsecurity.org. 30 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-30.
- "Salon interview with Jonathan Mostow". Salon.com. 4 May 2000.
- Kahn, David (1991). Seizing the Enigma: the Race to Break the German U-Boat Codes, 1939-1943. Boston, Houghton Mifflin.
- Sebag-Montefiore, Hugh (2001). Enigma: the Battle for the Code. Phoenix.
- U-571 at the Internet Movie Database
- U-571 at AllRovi
- U-571 at the TCM Movie Database
- U-571 at Rotten Tomatoes
- U-571 at Box Office Mojo
- Imperial War Museum Enigma pages: Captured! Enigma codebooks rescued from U-boat Linked 2012-10-22
- BBC Movies 11 January 2001: U-571 (2000) Linked 22/10/2012
- BBC Movies: American Histories - How The War Wasn't Won Linked 2012-10-22
- The Guardian, 26 February 2009: U-571: You give historical films a bad name Linked 2012-10-22
- Virtual Enigma Machine at Bletchley Park Post Office Linked 2012-10-22