Friday, February 9, 2007

Dive! Dive! Obsessing on Submarine Movies



I've been watching submarine movies like they're going out of style. They probably are out of style now anyway. I've seen most of them before, but one watching begat another, and soon my Netflix queue was as loaded with submarines as the Kriegsmarine was in 1940. They range from teh excellent, (Das Boot) to the absolutely horrible (U-571) . I was going to review them all, but I figured U-571 deserves its own post. WARNING: TOTAL SPOILERS BELOW.

U-571
I had run out of sub movies to watch, so I watched this one. Oy. . Matt McConnaghey is the XO aboard the USS Bon Jovi, named for the guy playing a doomed crewman. Cap'n Bill Paxton is the earnest skipper, who has recently given the navy a "no" vote to the question of should McConnaghey have his own command. They get a mission to go snag an Enigma machine off of a disabled U-Boat (U-571, natch.) First they must race to the scene ahead of another German sub sent to rescue it, then don Nazi Submariner uniforms, board the disabled vessel, overpower the crew, snag the Enigma machine, blow up the disabled sub, and return to base pronto before the dirty huns know they're about an Enigma Machine shy of a full compliment. Leading the landing party for the Americans is good old David Keith, (who you may remember as the wise-cracking, engagement-ring gobbling cheap motel suicide buddy of Richard Gere in "An Officer And A Gentleman" and not so much of a career since.) There's also some government spy type who speaks fluent German and gets seasick along for the ride. I forget who plays him, but he looks like a cross between a stockbroker and Tim Roth. Everything goes pretty well vis a vis the sub takeover, and just as they're ready to blow the disabled sub, the German rescue sub appears on the scene and torpedoes the American sub. Just a handful of men remain on the disabled German sub (and the Enigma machine, saved from drowning) and they immediately dive. Through expert maneuvering, they manage to fire a torpedo at the enemy sub, and it blows up real good in CGI splendor. They surface, looking for survivors. They see Cap'n Bill Paxton floating dead with a blowed up eye, and the ONE survivor they pluck out is the former captain of the very UBoat they're stuck on. A Jerry. A lousy hun. From here on in, it is submarine movie cliche all the way.
  • Captain looks through periscope, sees destroyer bearing STRAIGHT FOR 'EM.
  • Destroyer lobs a bevy of depth charges, rocking the sub, leaks spring up.
  • Captain insists they 'take er deep', close to or surpassing "Crush Depth"
  • Screws pop loose, gauges pop their bezels, leak after leak appears.
  • The only thing left is to? Wait for it.....BLOW THE TANKS
  • German captain able to kill a crewman, and later signal the enemy destroyer before being apparently bludgeoned to death.
  • Surface, race against time to fix the broken torpedo tube, launch single torpedo at bow of ship, watch it blow up completely, saving the day and the code machine.

Also, it really bugged me that the Americans were the ones that swiped the Enigma. Several Enigmas were captured early in the war by the British. No Americans got an Enigma until 44 or so, long after the U-Boats were a big factor in the war. The sensibility of this film would be like making "Enemy At The Gates" into a movie where a cowboy sharpshooter (Brad Pitt or someone) and his handful of salty American troops stop the German advance at Stalingrad and save the Soviet Union from ruin. For four decades anyway.

I learned from the internets that one of the deleted scenes (not included on the DVD, unfortunately) has Jon Bon Jovi being horribly decapitated. That might have changed my outlook.

I think that U-571 has as much accuracy and realism as say..."Down Periscope".

1 comment:

drewdane said...

I must wholeheartedly disagree. Down Periscope is a much more accurate portrayal of life aboard a submarine than U-571. That is all.