Making the Grades
When commanding officer Mike Dahlgren's (Bill Paxton) crew is recalled early from shore leave, they are surprised to be assigned to an aging S-33 WWI sub that has been retrofitted to look like a German U-boat. Dahlgren and executive officer Andrew Tyler (Matthew McConaughey) learn from intelligence officer Lt. Hirsch (Jake Weber) that another German U-boat lies disabled in the Atlantic. With the intent of fooling the German crew into thinking help has arrived, the Americans intend to take control of the lame sub, and more importantly, capture the encryption device on board. The secret code it generates has been thwarting Allied Forces attempts to intercept German communications.
But like any good war movie, plans begin to unravel when the S-33 is suddenly torpedoed while the Americans are attempting to take control of the U-boat. With most of both crews dead (and a huge assortment of extras out of the script), the balance of the movie focuses on Tyler commanding a handful of Americans in the limping U-boat while evading German ships.
If the words "Dive! Dive! Dive!" make you recall moments from great submarine movies full of tactical ingenuity, then U-571 may be your kettle of fish.
Bound to be appealing to young audiences who like action and war films, parents' greatest concerns will stem from the violence in U-571. To keep within the confines of the PG-13 rating, only a couple of killings are displayed on screen, but the script involves the deaths of hundreds as ships and subs are destroyed. The Germans are particulary ruthless, with one scene showing a German commander firing upon a lifeboat full of helpless shipwreck survivors. Again, we see the gun, but not the violence resulting from its use.
Claiming to be based on some facts, the violence may be justified considering the reality of World War II, but unfortunately the script assumes that sailors swear up a storm with many moderate profanities. Certainly an exciting edge-of-your-seat movie, be aware that for some families U-571 may be sub-standard.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about U-571.
When a German commander orders his crew to begin firing upon a lifeboat full of helpless survivors, the crew is reluctant to do so. Often in movies, everyone on the side of the enemy is depicted as being completely bad or evil. What examples can you find in U-571 that demonstrate shades of grey between good and evil, and do you think these portrayals are more realistic?.