When it comes to historical movies, accuracy often takes a back seat for the sake of a good story. Depending on the story or the historical point involved, this can be a good decision or a bad decision. Sometimes, the movie completely distorts history for the sake of a story. This can create a very divisive film that is difficult to judge on its own merits. Fortunately, that’s why I’m here.
U-571 tells the tale of the capture of the Enigma machine, a code machine that encrypted and decrypted their codes for communication. The capture of the machines spelled the end of the submarine wolfpack’s power, allowing the Allied forces to almost completely wipe out the U-boat threat in the Atlantic Ocean.
However, the movie pretty much completely alters almost every single historical point of the movie, turning a tale of British gumption against the threat of the Nazi War Machine into a glorious action adventure where America features front and center.
Unlike historical minded works like The Battle of the Bulge or the Guns of Navarone, U-571 lacks the grandiose nature of such movies in favor of a more direct action motif. That is frankly what saves the movie. Though it fails spectacularly as historical drama, it very much succeeds as an action war movie. Those seeking a gripping tale of historical accuracy against the onslaught that was the U-boat wolfpacks of the Atlantic will be disappointed. Those who desire an action packed story of high seas shenanigans in the informal yet gripping setting of the underwater navy will find a story very much worth watching.
The movie fails at almost every point of historical accuracy, but it does succeed as an action war movie. The gripping adventure of an American crew to capture a German sub and the code machine contained therein makes for a gripping story. That is the movie’s saving grace, that action and tension from a war movie itself. It’s not the historical moment being presented that’s the draw for this movie, but rather the action itself as represented within that historical moment, twisted to the point of being unrecognizable.
If you go into the movie expecting an accurate historical drama, you will be disappointed. If, however, you go in for an action packed adventure on the high seas, both above and below the waterline, you will enjoy U-571. It may not be an accurate tale of wartime heroics, but it is a derring-do tale of action and adventure during a war. The accuracy is not there, but the tension, the action, the sense of warfare at its best and its worst, are present throughout the movie. Though it fails as a wartime drama, it succeeds as an action war movie.
There is much to dislike about U-571, but there is also much to enjoy. As long as you know what you’re getting into when you start watching, you are sure to have a good time with the film. You won’t get the glory of the Western Front, but you will have a fun time on the High and Low Seas.