U-571 (2000)

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Released 29-Nov-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Menu Animation & Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Canyon
Trailer-2
Featurette-Spotlight On Location
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Breaking The Code
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
DVD-ROM Extras
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 111:20
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:59) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jonathan Mostow
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Matthew McConaughey
Bill Paxton
Harvey Keitel
John Bon Jovi
Jake Weber
David Keith
Matthew Settle
Case Brackley-Trans-No Lip
RPI $34.95 Music Richard Marvin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Before I begin, I have to tell you that Wolfgang Petersen's epic Das Boot is in my top ten list of classic films. That said, any submarine film is going to have to be pretty impressive to hold my interest, and in the first few minutes of U-571, my expectations were not great. The subtlety and depth (ho ho!) of the German film was gone, replaced with the usual bombastic Hollywood score and characters that had to stand face-on to the camera at all times lest the audience notice their lack of dimension.

    After the initial disappointment, though, I began to understand director Jonathan Mostow's intentions. After all, the writer-director of the critically-regarded Breakdown obviously knew what he was doing, and as he explains in the informative commentary track, he wasn't attempting another Das Boot. Instead he sought to recreate the war films of his youth, such as Run Silent, Run Deep, complete with Big Jawlines, flag-waving and with the effects modern audiences demand. Go into the film with this understanding, and you should have a blast.

    The plot is loosely based on several events that actually occurred in WWII, but the particulars are completely fabricated. After a German U-Boat is badly damaged by a fearsome depth charge assault, a US Navy crew disguise their submarine as a U-Boat and attempt to reach the Nazi vessel before the repair crew can arrive. The idea is to eliminate the crew and capture the Enigma machine, a sophisticated device used by the Nazis to co-ordinate U-Boat attacks (the transmissions sent with Enigma machines were so difficult to decipher that by the time Allied forces worked out the message, the attack had already taken place). Once the machine is captured, the plan is to destroy the Nazi sub so as to not alert the Germans that their device is in enemy hands, and the Navy can be out of the area scot-free.

    Of course, if it was this easy, we wouldn't have much of a movie, and I'd recommend watching the film immediately without checking out the extra features beforehand. As usual, the trailer gives too much of the story away, and you wouldn't want a fun plot twist spoilt for you. Performances are reasonable, but the sheer number of characters mean that there's no time for them to be anything except War Movie Archetypes. Even Harvey Keitel has little to do except look staunch and occasionally give a word of advice to the usually-obnoxious Matthew McConaughey, who actually manages to be inoffensive (which is more than I can say for his role in Contact!). A few too many scenes were strongly reminiscent of Das Boot while never matching the level of suspense or drama that the earlier film did.

    Overall, yes, big-and-dumb, but good big-and-dumb, if you get my drift (ha! I kill myself!), and (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) Jon Bon Jovi dies, which is always good to see.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a very impressive looking disc!

    The disc is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with 16x9 enhancement.

    As you expect from a big-budget action film, detail is fantastic, with great shadow detail, contrast and black levels. The resolution is such that I could pick the computer-composited shots - this would be impossible with VHS and hit-and-miss with a laserdisc transfer. I didn't notice any harsh edge-enhancement, which was a criticism made by Widescreen Review of the Region 1 disc.

    Colour is natural and well-saturated.

    There were no film artefacts, MPEG artefacts or other film-to-video artefacts observed.

    The disc is RSDL, and the layer change at 72:59 was completely unnoticeable the first time I watched the film. It was apparent when I was watching the commentary, but I'd say that a player with a fast layer change mechanism and a large data buffer will have similar results to my player. In any case, the layer change is very well placed, and unobtrusive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The disc contains two high-bitrate Dolby Digital tracks. I listened mostly to the spectacular 5.1 track, but there is also a 2.0 surround-encoded mix for those without discrete equipment.

    Dialogue is clear, natural and intelligible throughout, except for some moments where the Navy crew are screaming at each other, where the young cast seem to be tripping over their own lips. The subtitles do a great job in revealing what they're trying to say!

    Audio sync is perfectly fine, as always.

    The soundtrack is by Richard Marvin, and is one of the biggest problems I have with the film. The score lacks subtlety and prefers to pound the audience into submission rather than letting the dialogue or visuals convey the mood of a scene. I do not need a full orchestral stab every time something 'exciting' happens. If it's naturally thrilling, I'll be thrilled. I don't enjoy being manipulated by a score (Titanic, anyone?).

    The surrounds are used almost to excess, with some serious wall-shaking bass all around the room. Every creak and groan in the obligatory 'going below crush depth' scene is placed perfectly around the listening room.

    There's an amazing amount of bass from the LFE channels, as well as every other channel. In fact, during a depth charge sequence at reference volume level, it felt as if my eyeballs were being pushed back into my skull. Personally, as a home theatre enthusiast, this is a feeling I enjoy on occasion. Think of the opening scenes in Saving Private Ryan and you're roughly in the ballpark. Some sequences are capable of damaging an underpowered system in my opinion, so be careful!

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Good stuff here, and definitely worth going through.

Menu

    Animated and with excessive torpedo action. We approve.

Director's Commentary

    Director Mostow is entertaining and informative with technical and historical information, as well as explaining his intentions in making the film. One of the better commentaries I've heard in the last few months.

Teaser Trailer

    16x9 enhanced, with full glorious 5.1 sound. I'd hardly call it a teaser though - it goes for over two minutes and pretty much gives the entire film away!

Theatrical Trailer

    Much the same as above, but with only surround-encoded sound. Strange.

Spotlight On Location

    Interestingly, every extra on this disc is 16x9 enhanced, which I wasn't expecting. I also wasn't expecting a Spotlight to have useful interviews in it, but there you go. This is actually worth the effort to watch.

Documentaries

    Good stuff here. Mostly, we're given historical information teaching us the true facts of the Enigma code machines, and their captures. Even the archival footage is 16x9 enhanced - good stuff indeed. Included is an interview with the captain of a British destroyer that seized the first Enigma box, and another with a Navy captain that commanded a surrendered U-Boat during the latter part of the war.

Biographies

    Fairly well-researched, if a little crawly!

DVD-ROM Features

    Ah. I'd love to describe what this is, but halfway through my reviewing, the supplied PCFriendly software did a most unfriendly thing, corrupting itself so that the DVD-ROM content no longer worked, and I could neither uninstall the software nor reinstall it. Looks like it's time to crawl through the registry repairing the damage done by that brain-damaged software, or reinstalling Windows (yay!). You can find information on the R1 DVD-ROM features on the Widescreen Review page, and from what I could tell in the brief time that the software worked, our content is identical.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The only real difference worth noting here is the inclusion of a low-bitrate (768kbps) DTS soundtrack on the R1 version. Without comparing the two soundtracks, I can only comment that the 448kbps Dolby Digital soundtrack in no way disgraced itself, and the apparently superior picture would sway me towards the local release.

Summary

    If you're after a popcorn flick or new demo disc, U-571 is one of the more entertaining I've come across. Definitely worth a rent, especially if you have a good system. Watch your windows and secure loose breakables!

    Video and audio quality are both excellent, bordering on reference quality.

    The extras are well-presented and consistently interesting, and could easily convince a fence-sitter to buy the disc.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Paul Dossett (read my bio here or check out my music at MP3.com.)
Wednesday, November 29, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer 103S DVD-ROM with Hollywood Plus decoder card, using S-Video output
DisplayMitsubishi DiVA (78cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationYamaha DSP-A1
SpeakersFront L/R: Richter Excalibur SE, Centre: Richter Unicorn Mk 2, Surrounds: Richter Hydras

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Comments (Add)
Good Review - Trigger Mike (The Bio Of An Egomaniac)