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Movie U-571 Review

UNIVERSAL Picture's "U-571" - a total (and dangerous) historical fiction.

  On April 21, 2000, Universal Pictures released its new mega-budget war-time movie "U-571".(1)
  A thrilling story about an American crew on a top-secret mission to capture an Enigma Cipher Machine from the German U-Boat, promises to be an exciting movie. At the first glance, all the standard required elements are there: the danger of the war, the dark submarine, brave American mariners, Nazis as cruel as they are dumb, and an enigmatic, famous German encryption machine. Yet, the final product is far from what we would expect from this powerful mixture.

  I'm not going to discuss here the technicality of the sorts of mistakes the movie is full of. There are more competent people to delve into this subject. What I'm here for is to maintain common sense, historical accuracy, and send tribute to all the heroes working silently on breaking the Enigma code. The tribute badly due, and not fulfilled.

  Jonathan Mostow, the movie director says:

"The first thing I wish to get across is that "U-571" is a work of fiction." (2)

Yet, despite his empty declaration, the movie is considered "the real story" by many viewers, and even advertised as such in a serious television network:

("The movie U-571 is based on a real event." (3) )

That's where the real danger begins.

  While the level of an education is rapidly declining, and the younger generation cannot even point out when and where the War took place, the information coming from "historical" movies like "U-571" provide nothing but distortion and confusion; finally become a newly accepted fact.
  The only historically accurate are the last five seconds of the movie, where the viewer can learn that the real events of the capturing Enigma Machine and its codebooks has taken place onboard of U-110, U-559, and U-505. Of course, there's no mention of the true heroes of this war: the Polish team of the Mathematicians, lead by Marian Rejewski, who already in 1932 broke an Enigma Machine (4), and later, an excellent British group working in Bletchley Park on this "greatest secret weapon of the war" (5). We have, instead, a substratum of facts, put together by technically efficient Hollywood masters.

  Whether it was intentional or not, although I strongly believe that it was intentional, the U-571 was produced with distortion of historical facts in mind.
  Despite what Mr. Mostow says, despite his attempt to use a back door to look good,

("As director of a movie that will reach a worldwide audience, I realize that I have a moral responsibility not to rewrite history. So even though "U-571" is a fictional action-adventure movie, I took several measures to ensure that the film would not distort the historical record." (6) ),

despite his consultation with David Kahn, an expert on the subject

([This movie] "Is basically Hollywood [not History]" (5) ),

despite the fact that he

"surrounded [himself] with retired WWII submariners, both American and German, to ensure the technical accuracy of the submarining aspects of the movie",

the final product is either his unwanted child or a purposely devised Trojan Horse.

  Hollywood, today's American Propaganda Ministry, works hard to rewrite history all over again. When most of the men who risk their lives in WWII are gone, Hollywood can start to create a new "History". No, we will not see the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor nor the Japanese inventing an atomic bomb, but there are many subjects waiting on the list to be distorted, rewritten, changed. Enigma is a perfect story to steal a fame and glory from the real war heroes.

  And what about the Hollywood's solution for the long run? The recipe for a new "History" is simple: mix lies with total fiction, add some historical bias, and cook with the latest technical effects (the masses really like that).

  Mr. Jonathan Mostow: Welcome to an exclusive club of the History Rewriters!
  Maybe, despite your lack of the director's talent, Mr. Spielberg and his colleagues will pour in more money to make you a famous director.

  And for the final verdict? "Scheisse!". Should I translate?

Lech Maziakowski

  1. U-571, Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bon Jovi, David Keith, Harvey Keitel, Bill Paxton, Terence "TC" Carson, Derk Cheetwood, Will Estes, Tom Guiry, Thomas Kretschmann, Jack Noseworthy, Eric Palladino, Dave Power, Matthew Settle, Jake Weber
    Director: Jonathan Mostow (Breakdown)
    Screenwriters: Jonathan Mostow, Sam Montgomery (cowriters of Breakdown), David Ayer , 2000, USA
  2. http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com/display.cgi?id=5113
  3. An introduction to the program "History or Hollywood?", aired on the History Channel, May 2, 2000
  4. See the Home Page: http://home.us.net/~encore/Enigma
  5. David Kahn in the program "History or Hollywood?", aired on the History Channel, May 2, 2000
  6. http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com/display.cgi?id=5113

Copyright (c) 1996-2000 Lech Maziakowski