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Alexandra DuPont Offers Yet Another Fawning, Blurb-ready, Jeffrey-Lyons-esque Hagiography/Review of U-571

Published at: April 19, 2000, 2:01 p.m. CST

WOW!!! What can Father Geek say? This is an excellent, entertaining REVIEW. Outstanding effort Alexandra, keep it up.

Alexandra DuPont Offers Yet Another Fawning, Blurb-ready, Jeffrey-Lyons-eque Hagiography/Review of U-571 -- Only This Time in the Form of a Memo to Director Jonathan Mostow, for Novelty's Sake

*****

April 19, 2000

To: Director Jonathan Mostow

From: Alexandra DuPont

Re: Your Sophomore (though Hardly Sophomoric) Effort, "U-571" (and yes, I know it's actually your third film, but let's not count "Beverly Hills Bodysnatchers," shall we?)

CC: AICN Staff and Devoted Readers

*****

Mr. Mostow:

Knowing that you're a reader of this site (or that you've at least grasped the value of working with AICN rather than dismissing it as "that pack of meddling kids"), I'd like to avail myself of the opportunity to address you directly re: your WWII sub thriller, "U-571."

Hey. Excellent job, man.

Now, then. I have a few questions:

*****

QUESTION ONE: How is it that you've made two films for Dino DeLaurentis ['Orca,' 1976's 'King Kong'] that resolutely fail to suck?

I'll hazard an answer: You have a pop-thriller sensibility that Dino knows not to mess with. With "Breakdown," you crafted a film that was equal parts "Duel" and "Deliverance"; for those readers who haven't seen "Breakdown," imagine "Frantic," only with Kurt Russell and not boring and substituting trailer trash for the French.

*****

QUESTION TWO: Why -- given the fact that your movie was guaranteed to be somewhat suspenseful by virtue of being set on a submarine -- did you bother to give it a taut, compelling storyline?

You're a cheeky monkey, Mostow. You KNEW going into this project that submarines are a sort of "suspense guarantee" -- that the sounds of pressure-induced creaking and depth-charge explosions in magnificent, ear-piercing THX, plus the claustrophobic sets and the close-ups of sweaty faces, would probably be enough to sell tickets in today's thrill-ride film culture. I mean, for pity's sake -- even "Crimson Tide," which, no offense, had fairly cartoony bookending scenes, got gripping once it went underwater.

But you've bothered to craft a plot-intensive story that, while not breaking any new ground thematically or anything, maintains its internal logic and pretty much never lets up. In retrospect, all the war-film clichés are in place:

(1) The young XO (an excellent, lean Matthew McConaughey), passed up for promotion because he's green, thrown into extraordinary circumstances that test his leadership mettle;

(2) The old mission-gone-horribly-wrong narrative saw;

(3) The anachronistic WWII dialogue, featuring such zingers as "We'll bushwhack 'em real good," and which the cast, particularly McConaughey, sells beautifully;

(4) The stock characters: the salty-dog chief (Harvey Keitel), the weary and wise skipper (Bill Paxton), the scary intelligence mofo (David Keith), the greenhorn, the guy who chokes under pressure, the Doubting Thomas, the wild-card prisoner, the wiseacre mess steward....

But you keep tossing these story elements and characters at us so fast and furious that there's nary a second to say, "Hey, he lifted that from 'Das Boot.'" I'm a "whisperer" at films -- I like to comment in my companion's ear as the tale progresses, much to that companion's dismay I'm sure -- but I couldn't tear myself away to do that with "U-571." (Of course, given that my hammer, anvil and stirrups are now permanently damaged by your Megadeth-concert-esque sound effects, my companion probably wouldn't have heard me anyway. I mean, really: I felt like Pete Townsend afterward.)

I guess my only criticism here would be that those few moments that the film slowed down to develop character were welcome, and I would have liked more of them. I'm thinking particularly of a scene in which Keitel's Chief lectures McConaughey on leadership after the fit hits the shan: "The skipper always knows what to do, whether he does or not." (BTW, if "U-571" tanks, which I rather doubt it will, you might consider making it the centerpiece of a corporate-leadership workshop series.)

*****

QUESTION THREE: So is Jack Noseworthy -- the silliest-named talented actor working today -- one of your "ensemble" players now or what?

***** QUESTION FOUR: Have you anticipated the other criticisms that will be leveled at you by film snobs? If not, do please allow me: I really really dug "U-571," Mr. Mostow, but following is some flak you may catch, along with my suggested responses:

CRITICISM: "It was no 'Das Boot.'" MY SUGGESTED RESPONSE: After hurling something unmentionable at the questioner, laugh and add, "Well, of COURSE it isn't -- Wolfgang Petersen made a thoughtful character piece and I've made a WWII thrill ride. My sincere hope is that this film will inspire young, foolish Joe Sixpack to go buy the four-hour Director's Cut DVD of 'Das Boot.' Which of course it won't, so they'll have to settle for my extremely entertaining Cliff's Notes version."

CRITICISM: "Where the hell did Jon Bon Jovi disappear to during that attack sequence, only to never be seen for the rest of the movie?" MY SUGGESTED RESPONSE: "Well, he's a cowboy, on a steel horse he rides, and he's wanted -- dead or alive."

CRITICISM: "It's too damn noisy." MY SUGGESTED RESPONSE: "Huh?"

CRITICISM: "Richard Marvin's score is kind of overbearing -- I felt like I was being told how to feel a lot of the time." MY SUGGESTED RESPONSE: "Mea culpa. You're absolutely right -- as with 'Saving Private Ryan,' my film would have been even more intense with almost no score whatsoever. I'm really sorry."

CRITICISM: "This story isn't historically accurate." MY SUGGESTED RESPONSE: For this one -- which will dog you for the next year or so as pot-bellied military re-enacters and Anglophile history buffs harass you around the globe -- I'd urge you to memorize the well-deserved coda at the end of your film: "God bless the HMS Bulldog and HMS Aubretia (1941), the HMS Petard (1942), and U.S. Navy Task Force 22.3 (1944). It's fiction, folks."

Warmest possible regards, congratulations on your labor of love, and don't pull a John McTiernan and make poopy movies after this one,

Alexandra DuPont

dupont@dvdjournal.com

P.S. You may be happy to hear, Mr. Mostow, that the rotund fellow behind me was so caught up in "U-571" that he kept yelling "Boom!" and "Whoa!" and "Oh hahahaha!" every time something or someone blew up. I personally wanted to club this fellow with a Fungo bat, but I suspect it's a compliment to your efforts.

Readers Talkback

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  • April 19, 2000, 2:08 p.m. CST

    Alexandra DuPont, Studio Plant?

    by darthpsychotic

    Great review Alexandra, It looks like this film will be as good as Das Boot! GET-PSYCHOTIC! :p

  • April 19, 2000, 2:50 p.m. CST

    "Orca" and "King Kong"(1976) FAILED TO SUCK?? *boggle*

    by guyuuk!

  • April 19, 2000, 2:59 p.m. CST

    A.DuP. here: I was wondering if I'd need to clear that up: Yes,

    by Alexandra DuPont

    But Mostrow made "Breakdown," produced by Dino, which, eerily, given Dino's track record, nevertheless fails to suck. Mostrow did NOT direct the 1976 "King Kong," oh heavens no. Sorry for the confusion; this is what happens when I write at oh-God-thirty. *** And Amazing Larry: Yes, I actually liked the film. But as you've written criticism, you know how unbelievably dull it can be to write a positive review. So I wrote a "memo." But you're absolutely right -- I totally took the long way 'round.

  • April 19, 2000, 3:01 p.m. CST

    Excellent

    by danhelm

    I too got to watch U-571 during a screening. As Harry said in his review, its an "action sub movie"; just like Mostow's last movie "Breakdown" he uses plenty of clihes but keeps the movie going so fast, with so many ingenious action sequences, you hardly notice. Like most World War II movies, there are stock characters aplenty, the script had some bad dialogue, the score was unnessesarily bombastic, and an early scene introducing the main American characters is slow, but don't let that stop you from seeing it.My university paper calls the movie "shallow", but the movie isnt about the evils of war or some great moral truth. It's about the director thinking up some impossible challenge the crew must go through (that sub crew goes through hell, I assure you; Mostow is a sadist toward them). Simply put, its "trills, chills, and spills". And, oh yes, watch it in a big theatre with a really good surround sound system. You friggin feel everything, depth charges and all.

  • April 19, 2000, 3:35 p.m. CST

    I love you...

    by Adrenaline

    ...Alexandra DuPont - even with your hammer, anvil and stirrups. Are you single?

  • April 19, 2000, 4:07 p.m. CST

    "DEATH WISH!!!!"

    by smilin'jackruby

    C'mon, anybody watched "Death Wish" lately? Now that's just yummy. DeLaurentiis may be laughed at now (and I once parked my car in his parking space at his old 8670 Wilshire office so that everybody thought De Laurentiis drove a total wreck), but "Death Wish" is the bomb.

  • April 19, 2000, 4:10 p.m. CST

    Just kidding, I meant "Mandingo" not "Death Wish"

    by smilin'jackruby

    Now "Mandingo," that's a classic.

  • April 19, 2000, 4:42 p.m. CST

    C'mon, Jack.....

    by mrbeaks

    .... if we're talking DeLaurentiis, you can't forget TAI-PAN: the movie that made Bryan Brown a star.

  • April 19, 2000, 5:19 p.m. CST

    Near as I could tell, this was supposed to be military fiction -

    by Alexandra DuPont

    As I mentioned in my review, there's a coda at the end of the film that mentions the MULTIPLE real missions -- three of them British -- that resulted in the retrieval of Enigma boxes from the Nazis. I don't think the filmmakers were trying to rewrite history, personally; I think they were just trying to make entertainment. "Saving Private Ryan" has sort of made historical accuracy the vogue right now, but I tend to keep in mind that (a) many classic war films are about as fact-based as "U-571," i.e. not very, and (b) Nobody will care in 100 years anyway -- they'll just appreciate it as good (or bad) drama. BTW, this is written with all due respect to your miltary service, Stormbringer. (P.S. The African-American gentleman is the mess steward, and his presence on the sub is well accounted for.)

  • April 19, 2000, 5:24 p.m. CST

    marry me, alexandra

    by tommy five-tone

    any woman who can invoke the name of the great mctiernan, recognise the contradiction of a cool actor having a bogus name (sorry, mr noseworthy, i'm all for being proud of your heritage, but you really should have changed it before heading for hollywood), show enough restraint not to forcibly silence the talkative fat guy behind her and dig a thoroughly retro but totally effective sub movie has my undying devotion. forgive me for being a shallow male, ms dupont, but you look like that anna paquin picture at the new cameron crowe site, don't you? you do, don't you? go on, tell me you do. please. i'm tommy five-tone and i'm waiting for your call.

  • April 19, 2000, 5:30 p.m. CST

    Bon Jovi

    by Azbrand

    According to one thing I read from Bon Jovi, he said that there was a sceene filmed where it showed his entire head being blown off during that attack. However, it ended up on the cutting room floor... That's why you never see where his character disappeared to...

  • April 19, 2000, 5:40 p.m. CST

    A review from someone who can write? On AICN?

    by JavaDevilYouArey

    Is it just me or does everyone think that just because an AICN spy can write a review without misspelling anything that they must be a studio plant? I appreciate a reviewer who doesn't sound like an illiterate, typing-in-all-lowercase, overhyping teenage dipshit. Hire this woman.

  • April 19, 2000, 6 p.m. CST

    Sounds interesting.

    by mephisto666

    I've been waiting for another great sub film since Crimson Tide. Sounds like this could be a contender. Since they seem to have a lot of cliches though I hope it's a little tongue-in-cheek. Good job on the review, DuPont. We shall watch your career with great interest.

  • April 19, 2000, 6:14 p.m. CST

    A Bon Jovi note you most likely won't care about

    by SuperAnt

    I happened to be listening to that EXACT line from 'Wanted Dead or Alive' as I read it in the review. That's some freaky karma, baby. Yeah, I still listen to that album. Man, I feel old right now.

  • April 19, 2000, 6:15 p.m. CST

    oh, amazing larry, know you not the simple joy of submission?

    by tommy five-tone

    hell, after a hard day at work, sometimes all five-tone wants is to crack open a cold beer, smoke a bit fatty and talk some shit with a like-minded companion. if that companion turns out to be the lovely polexia-lookalike ms dupont, so be it. (alexandra dupont, anna paquin - hell, their NAMES even sound alike. except not really.) think i'm being a lowly dog? hell, brother, sometimes there's nothing wrong with ceding a little control. and like kurt cobain once said, if you can't find a partner, use a wooden chair. (i have no idea what i mean by that.)

  • April 19, 2000, 6:15 p.m. CST

    this movie *does* suck

    by sulu_99

    okay, not completely, but the scenes without action are just way to cheesy, and the actors really seemed to no want to be saying these lines, as if they could tell just how stupid they were gonna sound... other than that, it was a decent action movie.

  • April 19, 2000, 7:52 p.m. CST

    skeptic me

    by JetAlone

    Ya know, I'll have to go see this movie now, because I've spent so much time and effort telling anyone who'll listen just how much Matthew McConaughey sucks. Now I'm hearing that he can really act??? I'll believe that when I see it. And if *you* don't believe *me*, dear readers, just rent A Time to Kill.

  • April 19, 2000, 9:45 p.m. CST

    Orca??

    by Seward

    OK, so "King Kong" has a certain '70's value to it. It's goofy, but not awful. But Orca?? A neat idea, perhaps, but man it didn't work. Whereas "Jaws" made the nation terrified of water for decades, "Orca" just made people laugh. This, in spite of the fact that a grown orca could kick the biggest great white's ass all over the Pacific.

  • April 19, 2000, 10:37 p.m. CST

    Re: Historical Accuracy

    by Kalgash

    Check out this post by Mostow himself to AICN re: historical accuracy. http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com/display.cgi?id=5113 and then you can stop yer whining and let the rest of us enjoy a decent film. S'aright?

  • April 19, 2000, 10:52 p.m. CST

    Bon Jovie gets his head blown off...

    by stiny

    I read an article about this movie qouting Bon Jovi himself saying that he was dissapointed that a scene where it shows his entire head being blown off was left on the cutting room floor. I bet everyone can guess the reason he gave for it being cut: the damn MPAA. It would not pass a PG-13 rating so it was cut. Once again the MPAA screws us!

  • April 20, 2000, 10:21 a.m. CST

    Harry...

    by Yossarian

    If yer not paying Ms. Dupont, you should be! She reeks of talent!

  • April 20, 2000, 5:41 p.m. CST

    Alex, you consistently save this site...

    by KingMenthol

    After reading Mongo Moriarty's overlong ridiculous review of Rollerball, it's nice to read a cleverly written, insightful epistle on a film that I'm now ready to see. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • April 21, 2000, 12:42 a.m. CST

    JetAlone, you're quite right.

    by Dave_F

    Matthew McConaughey is a cancer upon Hollywood, quite possibly deserving of death by guillotine (though having him drawn and quartered has a certain appeal as well). In a quirky defense of him, however, I should note that *everything* about "A Time to Kill" was dreck, so his crappiness didn't stand out so much in that. "Contact" is a another matter. A movie I really, really enjoy, but every time that pretty-boy McConaughey steps into camera, he all but brings the whole thing crashing down. Bah! Oh well, McConaughey did have one legit role - his small part in "Lone Star". Now that was a pretty fascinating movie, period.

  • April 21, 2000, 2:32 a.m. CST

    DuPont: Elitist Highbrow or Crack Whore?

    by TravisPupkin

    Ms. DuPont might write like some kind of elitist highbrow, but take her raves on ear-numbing entertainment with a brick of salt. She's got some skeletons in her closet: she once wrote a similarly enthusiatic review of WILLOW, for god's sake. Methinks she's trying to use her clout at AICN to snag a date with the director (who, it appears, may not find her "noseworthy." There's no way that guy is getting cast on talent alone).

  • April 21, 2000, 1:41 p.m. CST

    Ally Dupont, tight-assed debutante, or bourgeoise concubine?

    by Rolande

    A. D. is seriously looking to be the "it" girl of AICN, and I for one am glad. No more Mongo-ate-my-ass-at-henchmen-camp-so-I-took-the-time-machine-to-George-Lucas-house-and-shit-it's-annoying-to-type-a-dash-after-every-word nonsense. You know what I mean? Nice review, nice questions.

  • April 22, 2000, 2:41 a.m. CST

    U-571 was okay.....

    by GEEKBASHER 3.0

    not the kind of movie you want to eat a pot brownie and watch..... I was so pummeled into submission.. bummed Harvey did not show his cock!

  • April 22, 2000, 9:29 a.m. CST

    Why they're Americans

    by Bootz

    Actually, when they first attempted to write the sub-guys as Brits, not only couldn't they find enough actors to pull the accent off, but the sophistication of the dialect ruined the testosterone factor. It was simply a matter of convenience. (My take on it folks:)

  • April 23, 2000, 8:36 p.m. CST

    What this movie needed...

    by Uncapie

    Mc Conoghy playing the bongos(Nude.) in the sub with Kirk Douglas and Harvey Keitel singing and dancing both nude to the tune of "Salty the Seal" from "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

  • April 23, 2000, 8:39 p.m. CST

    Doesn't Jack Noseworthy look like "Alfred E. Neuman?"

    by Uncapie

    He does!